Obama’s transition team, which will assist in assembling his cabinet, is headed by John Podesta, former chief of staff to Bill Clinton and one of Washington’s most successful corporate lobbyists. Co-chairing the transition team are Valerie Jarrett, a long-time Obama advisor, Chicago real estate executive and influential figure within the Chicago Democratic Party machine, and Pete Rouse, a Washington insider and Obama’s senate chief of staff.
Obama’s first appointee is Rahm Emanuel, who will serve as his chief of staff. The Illinois Congressman is a leading member of the right-wing Democratic Leadership Council. While running for Congress in 2002, he supported Bush’s bill to authorize military force against Iraq. A former investment banker, he has close ties to financial interests and is one of the biggest recipients of campaign cash from banks and investment firms.
Sources close to Obama have leaked names on the list of candidates for the position of treasury secretary-no doubt as a means of reassuring Wall Street. Included are former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, former Clinton treasury secretary and current Citigroup executive Robert Rubin, another former Clinton treasury secretary, Lawrence Summers, and Timothy Geithner, the New York Federal Reserve Bank president.
All of these individuals played leading roles in the deregulation of the banks and investment houses that facilitated the super-profits and massive CEO compensation packages of the 1990s and first half of the current decade, and contributed to the financial collapse that is now plunging the US and the rest of the world into the deepest recession since the 1930s.
Geithner has played a central role in the government bailout of Wall Street banks and other major firms, such as insurance conglomerate AIG and the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
As Federal Reserve chief under Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, Volcker was responsible for the high interest rate “shock therapy” which decimated American industry in the early 1980s and led to the impoverishment of entire regions.
There is much speculation that Obama will ask current Defense Secretary Robert Gates to stay on in the same capacity, at least on an interim basis. Gates recently gave a speech expanding the doctrine of “pre-emptive war” to include the use of first-strike nuclear attacks.
Other names broached for the positions of defense secretary and secretary of state include former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell, outgoing Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and Anthony Lake, who as Clinton’s national security advisor played a key role in organizing the US-NATO war against Yugoslavia.
Obama’s actions since Election Day have been calculated to signal to the ruling elite his readiness to defend their interests and not be swayed by the will of the electorate. To underscore his intention to seek a consensus with the defeated and discredited Republican minority, he will meet on Monday with Bush. The traditional White House meeting between a president-elect and the outgoing president normally takes place much later in the transition period between administrations.
To demonstrate that his first priority is shoring up the major banks, Obama’s first post-Election Day meeting will be held today with his top economic policy advisers. The meeting will include Volcker, Rubin and Summers, along with billionaire investor Warren Buffett, former Clinton labor and commerce secretaries Robert Reich and William Daley, Clinton economic advisor Laura Tyson, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Time Warner Chairman Richard Parsons, XEROX CEO Anne Mulcahy, Residence by Hyatt CEO Penny Pritzker, former Bush administration Securities and Exchange Commissioner William Donaldson, and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.
Change, or the same crap all over again?