Posted tagged ‘President’

Obama Selects Lobbyist as Deputy Defense Secretary

January 9, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama appointed a defense contractor’s lobbyist, William J. Lynn III, this morning to become the No. 2 official at the Defense Department.

Don’t get me wrong, I voted for Obama, but didn’t he pledge to stay away from lobbyists? Thoughts?

From CNN:

President-elect Barack Obama, who campaigned on lessening lobbyist influence in government, has chosen a defense expert who is currently a vice president and lobbyist for one of the country’s biggest defense contractors to be his deputy secretary of defense.

Obama’s transition office announced that William Lynn, an undersecretary of defense in President Bill Clinton’s second term, has been nominated as Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ deputy.

Lynn is currently a senior vice president at Raytheon, which has billions of dollars in Defense Department contracts and is the maker of the Army’s Patriot Missile system and the Tomahawk missile used by the Navy. The company is also developing a global positioning satellite communication system with the Air Force.

As deputy secretary, Lynn would be involved in the process of budgeting and acquisitions, in addition to running the day-to-day operations of the Defense Department.

Obama’s transition office acknowledged that appointing a lobbyist did not, on the face of it, seem in line with the president-elect’s ethics stance but that Lynn’s qualifications and the recommendations that came from both Republicans and Democrats made him the top candidate.

“Because Mr. Lynn came so highly recommended from experts across the political spectrum, the president-elect felt it was critical that he fill this position,” said Obama transition spokesman Tommy Vietor.

Vietor said Lynn and the transition team would create guidelines that would fit the ethics standards of the new administration.

From the Associated Press:

William J. Lynn III, Obama’s choice for deputy defense secretary, is a former Pentagon official who now is senior vice president for government operations at Raytheon Co. Lynn hasn’t been a registered lobbyist since July, meaning he can’t personally lobby Congress or the White House.

In the first three months of 2008, his lobbying team reported spending $1.15 million to influence issues including missiles, sensors and radar, advanced technology programs and intelligence funding.

Obama has vowed that no political appointees in his administration would be permitted to work on areas that “directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years.” Although Lynn heads Raytheon’s division for government operations and strategy and was personally registered as a Raytheon lobbyist until July — both within that two-year period — Obama plans to give him the job.

“We are aware that Mr. Lynn lobbied for Raytheon, and are working with Mr. Lynn to craft a role for him that is consistent with the President-elect’s high standards while balancing the need to fill this critical national security position,” Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

Vietor declined to comment further on whether Lynn would have to remove himself from involvement on any issues.

Some government watchdogs questioned the revolving-door aspect of Lynn’s appointment even while acknowledging his qualifications.

“He left public service and went into lobbying for one of the largest defense contractors in the nation. And that’s the part that’s troubling,” said Bill Buzenberg, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity. “Even if he’s completely above board and ethical, it raises questions about his loyalty.”

During his presidential campaign, Obama took pains to tell voters he wouldn’t tolerate influence-peddling.

“I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over,” Obama said in November 2007 in Des Moines, Iowa. “I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists and won. They have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president.”

Bill Richardson Will Not Be Commerce Secretary

January 4, 2009

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is withdrawing his nomination to be commerce secretary, he and President-elect Barack Obama said in statements earlier today.

From Reuters:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on Sunday withdrew as U.S. President-elect Barack Obama‘s nominee for commerce secretary, becoming the first casualty among Obama’s picks for his Cabinet.

One of the country’s most prominent Hispanic politicians, Richardson said he was dropping out because of an investigation into a company that has done business with New Mexico’s state government.

Obama said in a statement that he had accepted Richardson’s withdrawal with “deep regret.” Richardson, 61, denied any wrongdoing but feared a lengthy investigation would delay his confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Richardson becomes the first of Obama’s cabinet choices to withdraw. The Senate had been expected to easily confirm his appointment. Obama is scheduled to take office on January 20.

Richardson, 61, served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and energy secretary in the Clinton administration and is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

He became an early Obama supporter after dropping his own presidential ambitions.

“Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact. But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process,” Richardson said in a statement released by the Obama transition team.

“It is also because of that sense of urgency about the work of the Commerce Department that I have asked the President-elect not to move forward with my nomination at this time. I do so with great sorrow. But a pending investigation of a company that has done business with New Mexico state government promises to extend for several weeks or, perhaps, even months,” Richardson added in the statement.

Barack Obama is TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year”

December 17, 2008

Although there were many qualified people this year, this doesn’t come a surprise to me.

The decision to name the United States’ first black president Person of the Year, announced this morning on The TODAY Show,  followed many weeks of deep discussion and debate among TIME editors and staff members.

From MSNBC:

Could TIME magazine’s 2008 Person of the Year have been anyone other than President-elect Barack Obama?

Maybe not. But what the much-anticipated announcement lacks in the surprise department is offset by Obama’s already undeniable place in history.

In a year when the economy imploded before our eyes, could U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson have made a provocative choice? How about Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin, two women who captivated the nation over much of the past year and who both, in their own ways, came so close to the presidency themselves?

Those people were considered, too, as were comedian Tina Fey, Olympian Michael Phelps, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, oil executive and renewable energy proponent T. Boone Pickens, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Zhang Yimou, director of the Beijing Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies.

But in the end, the 44th president of the United States proved to be the irresistible choice.

“I don’t think that Americans want hubris from their next president,” Obama told TIME for the Person of the Year issue, which appears online today and on newsstands Friday. “[But] I do think that we received a strong mandate for change. And I know that people have said, ‘Well, what does this change mean?’ … It means a government that is not ideologically driven. It means a government that is competent. It means a government, most importantly, that is focused day in, day out on the needs and struggles, the hopes and dreams of ordinary people.”

Caroline Kennedy Interested in Filling Hillary Clinton’s Senate Seat

December 15, 2008

Caroline Kennedy, the 51-year-old daughter of former President John Kennedy, has indicated her interest in filling the Senate seat being vacated by Secretary of State-designee Hillary Clinton. It’ll be interesting to see how this story develops in the coming days and weeks.

From CNN:

Two other sources Monday confirmed her interest in filling the seat now held by Secretary of State-designee Hillary Clinton. One source is a senior Democratic operative.

Kennedy’s interest in the seat could mean the continuation of a family legacy in the Senate that began 56 years ago with the election of her father as the then-junior senator from Massachusetts.

Her uncle Ted Kennedy has represented Massachusetts in the Senate since 1963, and her uncle Robert Kennedy served as New York’s junior senator from 1965 until he was assassinated in 1968.

“Remember, [Clinton’s] seat in the Senate was once held by Robert Kennedy,” said Bill Schneider, CNN’s senior political analyst. “[Caroline Kennedy’s] other uncle, Ted Kennedy, is ill right now. If Paterson appoints Caroline Kennedy to the Senate, it means there could be a Kennedy staying in the Senate for quite a long time.”

CNN reported earlier this month that Caroline Kennedy had called New York Gov. David Paterson to discuss the possibility of taking the seat.

Five September 11 Suspects to Confess

December 9, 2008

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men who have been charged with coordinating the September 11 attacks have stated that they want to enter guilty pleas, apparently challenging the U.S. government to sentence them to death before President-elect Barack Obama takes office.

From the Associated Press:

The Guantanamo detainees said they decided on Nov. 4 — the day Obama was elected — to abandon their defenses in their death-penalty trials. Obama opposes the military war-crimes trials and has pledged to close Guantanamo’s detention center, which holds some 250 men.

Mohammed said Monday he will confess to masterminding the attacks that killed 2,975 people. The four other defendants did the same, in effect daring the Pentagon to give them death sentences.

The judge ordered lawyers to advise him by Jan. 4 whether the Pentagon can apply the death penalty — which military prosecutors are seeking — without a jury trial.

Mohammed, who has already told a military panel he was the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, said he has no faith in the judge, his Pentagon-appointed lawyers or President George W. Bush.

Sporting a chest-length gray beard, Mohammed told the judge in English: “I don’t trust you.”

The defendants’ announcement shocked victims’ relatives who watched from behind a glass partition, the first time family members have been allowed to observe the war-crimes trials.

Alice Hoagland of Redwood Estates, Calif., told reporters that she hopes Obama, “an even-minded and just man,” would ensure the five men are punished, though she believes they should not be executed and become martyrs.

Hoagland’s son, Mark Bingham, died on United Flight 93, whose passengers fought hijackers before it crashed in rural Pennsylvania.

“They do not deserve the glory of executions,” Hoagland said. “I want these dreadful people to live out their lives in a U.S. prison … under the control of people they profess to hate.”

But Hamilton Peterson, of Bethesda, Md., and whose father and stepmother died on United 93, said the defendants showed a “complete lack of contrition” and deserved to be executed.

Maureen Santora, of Long Island City, N.Y., watched from the back of the courtroom, wearing black and clutching a photo of her son Christopher, a firefighter who died responding to the World Trade Center attacks.

“They were proud to be guilty and that says a lot about them,” she said.

Barack Obama Steps Into Leadership Gap

December 8, 2008

Barack Obama has chosen not to observe the tradition requiring a president-elect to keep quiet on the sidelines until Inauguration Day. He made a series of bold calls this weekend for action on the economy, including a fiscal stimulus package and a plan to help homeowners. “I am disappointed that we haven’t seen quicker movement on this issue by the administration,” he said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

From Financial Times:

With dutiful regularity, America’s president-elect has reminded the US public since November 4 that the country only has one president at a time. What he forgot to add was that his name is Barack Obama, not George W. Bush.

In a series of weekend statements – a radio address to the public on Saturday, a prime time Sunday morning interview and an afternoon press conference in Chicago – Mr Obama made it plain that economic events will not respect America’s oddly archaic 77-day transition.

Since his emphatic victory last month, Mr Obama has watched the economy fall off a cliff. The most recent data came on Friday, with the largest single monthly jump in unemployment since 1974. The Obama transition team, which has produced the fastest series of economic appointments “in history”, according to Mr Obama, has observed Mr Bush’s abdication of presidential authority with mounting concern.

Almost two million jobs have been lost since September. One in ten American mortgage holders are either in arrears or have had their homes repossessed by the banks. In what may well qualify as an understatement, Mr Obama on Sunday told NBC’s Meet the Press: “I am disappointed that we haven’t seen quicker movement on this issue [to assist struggling homeowners] by the administration.”

Mr Obama’s chief source of frustration with the outgoing president is Mr Bush’s refusal to agree to a second fiscal stimulus package, at a time when economists of all political stripes are calling for what the president-elect described as a “blood transfusion” to stabilise the patient. Hence Mr Obama’s intervention this weekend.

Without putting a cost-estimate on the package, Mr Obama on Sunday outlined the contours of a fiscal stimulus that would keep the US economy alive pending more substantial action. The plan, which emphasises aid to struggling states, many of which are deepening the crisis by cutting spending to meet their legal balanced budget requirements, could be passed by Congress some time in January.

Some hope the plan, which would cost at least $500bn, may even be ready for Mr Obama to sign on January 20 after he has taken the oath of office. The 111th Congress starts work on 6 January. “Things are going to get worse before they get better,” said Mr Obama yesterday. “My number one priority going in is to make sure we have an economic recovery plan that is equal to the task.”

Barack Obama Announces National Security Team

December 1, 2008

No surprises here. President-elect Barack Obama announced early this morning that Robert Gates would remain as defense secretary, making President Bush’s Pentagon chief his own as he seeks to wind down the U.S. role in Iraq.

Obama also, as anticipated, picked former Democrat and campaign rival Hillary Clinton as his choice for secretary of state.

From the Associated Press:

At a news conference, Obama also introduced retired Marine Gen. James Jones as White House national security adviser, former Justice Department official Eric Holder as attorney general and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as secretary of homeland security.

The announcements rounded out the top tier of the team that will advise the incoming chief executive on foreign and national security issues in an era marked by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and terrorism around the globe.

“The time has come for a new beginning, a new dawn of American leadership to overcome the challenges of the 21st century,” Obama said as his Cabinet picks stood behind him on a flag-draped stage.

“We will strengthen our capacity to defeat our enemies and support our friends. We will renew old alliances and forge new and enduring partnerships.”

Obama said his appointees “share my pragmatism about the use of power, and my sense of purpose about America’s role as a leader in the world.”

Gates’ presence in Chicago made him a visible symbol of the transition in power from the Bush administration to one headed by Obama.

The president-elect, reprising a campaign vow, said he would give the military a new mission as soon as he takes office: “responsibly ending the war in Iraq through a successful transition to Iraqi control.” He did not mention his oft-repeated pledge to withdraw most U.S. combat troops within 16 months.

He also appointed campaign foreign policy aide Susan Rice as his ambassador to the United Nations. Obama said he would make her a member of the Cabinet, an increase in stature from the Bush era.

Obama’s announcements marked a shift in emphasis, after a spate of appointments last week for his economic team.


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