January 13th, 2009
12:02 PM ET

Hillary Clinton – eyes on the hot spots

Sen. Hillary Clinton poses for pictures with Sens. John Kerry, right, and Dick Lugar, left.

Sen. Hillary Clinton poses for pictures with Sens. John Kerry, right, and Dick Lugar, left.

Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer

In the confirmation hearing today, Clinton said she would work not only with government agencies, but NGOs and the private sector to address world problems because "we all have a lot of work to do."

"It's really all hands on deck," she said.

But Clinton stressed she wanted to boost the resources of the State Department, because there is no replacement for seasoned diplomats. She said that the Defense Department received 10 times more the resources going to the State Department and conducts a lot of work in the field traditionally handled by State, which in effect means the DOD is "recreating the State Department."

She acknowledged a frustration with the bureaucracy of the State Department – and didn't want a "pile of paper," but rather new strategies, ideas and best practices from not only her staff, but also asked for suggestions from the senate committee itself.

On Iran
Clinton said Iran's nuclear program is "of great concern," and that there is an ongoing policy review on how to approach it. "Our goal will be to do everything we can through diplomacy and the use of greater sanctions," she said.

On sanctions, she said "we won't know what we are capable of achieving until we begin work." Says they are committed to working with friends and adversaries in the United Nations, making a case to the UN security council that "a nuclear-armed Iran is in no one's interest."


January 13th, 2009
11:13 AM ET

As Senate Hearings Begin, Hillary Clinton’s Image Soars

Jeffrey M. Jones

A new Gallup Poll finds 65% of Americans saying they have a favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton, the highest rating for her in almost 10 years.

Clinton had not had a favorable rating above 60% since 1999, after having been consistently above that level during the Monica Lewinsky scandal that led to the impeachment but ultimate acquittal of husband Bill Clinton. That included Hillary Clinton's all-time high 67% favorable rating immediately after the House of Representatives voted to impeach the president in December 1998.


January 13th, 2009
10:24 AM ET

A Word To My Successor

Arne Duncan listens as President-elect Obama announces him as his choice for education secretary.

Arne Duncan listens as President-elect Obama announces him as his choice for education secretary.

Margaret Spellings
The Washington Post

Dear Arne Duncan,

Congratulations! I am so pleased that President-elect Barack Obama has asked you, a fellow reformer, to serve as the next U.S. secretary of education. Your experience as chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools will be invaluable in continuing the work we in the Bush administration began doing to close the achievement gap and provide all children, regardless of race, income level or background, the skills needed to succeed.

This is an important and hopeful change from the past. For decades, our nation took what I call the "ostrich approach" to improving schools: Instead of facing challenges, we buried our heads in the sand. Thanks to the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act, we now measure student achievement annually so that we can take an honest look at our problems - the first step toward solving them.


Filed under: Education • Presidential Cabinet
January 13th, 2009
09:57 AM ET

In Foreign Policy, a New Trio at the Top

Kerry is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Kerry is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Anne E. Kornblut and Glenn Kessler
The Washington Post

When Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) gavels the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to order today and welcomes Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) to her confirmation hearing as President-elect Barack Obama's nominee to be secretary of state, he will mark the ascendance of a new triumvirate dominating the foreign policy arena.

The hearing will also call attention to a particularly awkward tangle of relationships.

Kerry, who first put Obama in the national spotlight by inviting him to give the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, endorsed Obama over Clinton early in the 2008 presidential primaries, much to the irritation of the Clinton campaign. But Obama chose his defeated nemesis for the top diplomatic position - a job that Kerry openly sought with the backing of many prominent Obama supporters. Instead of joining the Obama Cabinet, Kerry became chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, with the goal of leading it back to its former prominence.


December 19th, 2008
06:21 PM ET

The Obama Cabinet – most promising in decades?

Editor's Note: Don't forget to watch CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen talk further about President-elect Obama's cabinet tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

David Gergen | BIO
AC360° Contributor
CNN Senior Political Analyst

With the final pieces falling into place today, a much clearer picture has emerged of the men and women who will gather around the table when Barack Obama convenes his new cabinet in Washington. By any measure, this cabinet will be one of the most pragmatic, talented, and politically experienced of any in recent decades - the makings of a dream team. Even so, some serious questions remain about how effective they will be – questions that can only be answered by the passage of time.

Altogether, Obama will have some 21 people at his cabinet table – himself, his vice president, his White House chief of staff, the heads of 15 executive departments, as well as the heads of the Office of Management and Budget, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Trade Representative. Whether he will invite others to the table such as his “czars” is still unclear.

But we do know now the identity now of the first 21, and one thing that stands out – especially in the political tug of war between left and right – is how centrist and pragmatic most of them are, especially in the areas of economics and national security. For weeks Washington has been wondering whether Obama would govern from the center-left or from the left. His appointments suggest that on a few issues, he will please the liberal elements of his base – global warming and unionization – but on most others, he will be more of a moderate progressive. That’s what he promised during the campaign, and that is what he is delivering in his appointments.


December 19th, 2008
12:19 PM ET

Investigating Holder

Brian Todd reports on a confirmation fight Senate Republicans seem willing to wage: Eric Holder's nomination.

Filed under: Barack Obama • Brian Todd • Presidential Cabinet
December 18th, 2008
01:39 PM ET

Organizing the White House is Obama's first test

Karl Rove
The Wall Street Journal

As he organizes his presidency, Barack Obama continues to receive glowing reviews. Three out of four Americans approve of how he's handling his transition.

But organizing and operating the White House will be a much bigger challenge than he can possibly yet understand.

Consider national security. Mr. Obama's team has the advantage of inheriting procedures and structures that stretch back to President Harry Truman's 1947 reforms, which created the National Security Council. But there's historically been tension over the roles of the national security adviser and secretary of state. How that tension is resolved depends largely on the able National Security Adviser-designate, James Jones.


December 18th, 2008
10:23 AM ET

Obama should forget about energy independence

Carol Browner was one of four key environmental nominees named by Obama.

Carol Browner was one of four key environmental nominees named by Obama.

Arthur B. Laffer
The Wall Street Journal

This week in Chicago, President-elect Barack Obama introduced key members of his new energy and environmental team and gave a statement expressing his administration's ambitious goal to make America energy independent. While his desire to do so is sincere, such a strategy would be disastrous for our economy.

The platitude of "energy independence" makes zero economic sense. Yes, it's true that many nations that supply us with oil are run by anti-American governments. But unfortunately embargoes don't overturn despotic regimes. More often than not they harden them, as in Zimbabwe, North Korea and Cuba. Since the U.S. is so reliant on oil, embargoes will hurt the U.S. as much, if not more, than the countries of OPEC. The issue of how to handle the anti-American nature of oil-exporting nations is not for the Commerce Department, but for the White House, the State Department and perhaps the Department of Defense.

The U.S. currently imports some 60% of the oil we use. To imagine an energy-independent U.S. today is to envision gas at $20 or more per gallon and a true depression. President Dwight D. Eisenhower tried oil import tariffs in the 1950s, as has every president since. Yet never before has America's reliance on foreign oil been greater than it is now.

While energy independence for the U.S. would enormously increase the price of oil at home, it would have the exact opposite effect in the rest of the world. Cheap oil for countries like China would surely not benefit the U.S. or the world's environment. Businesses that use oil would move offshore, costing American jobs while still polluting the world's environment. Artificial energy independence is neither a good foreign policy nor a good domestic economic policy.


December 17th, 2008
12:16 PM ET

Coal mines, casinos, and cocaine

Sen. Ken Salazar is Obama's choice for secretary of the interior.

Sen. Ken Salazar is Obama's choice for secretary of the interior.

Bradford Plumer
The New Republic

If the news reports are accurate, Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado has been tapped by Barack Obama to head up the Department of Interior. Let's hope he knows what he's getting into. After the last eight years, the Interior Department has become fairly dysfunctional, and this may end up being one of the most difficult jobs in the Obama administration-not to mention one that gets remarkably little attention.

Looking back historically, the Interior Department has been a mess from the very beginning. It was created in 1849 essentially to handle the government's odds and ends, from exploring the West to conducting the decennial census to managing the D.C. jail system, and quickly became a massive patronage reservoir: Walt Whitman was famously fired from the department in 1866 by a reformer secretary trying to weed out sinecures. The public-land giveaways in the 1890s were frequently plagued by fraud–a precursor to the Teapot Dome scandal under Warren Harding–and the Indian Bureau has been criticized for corruption and inefficiency for as long as anyone can remember.


December 16th, 2008
03:44 PM ET

Obama’s pick for education secretary pushed for gay high school

Arne Duncan listens Tuesday as President-elect Obama announces him as his choice for education secretary.

Arne Duncan listens Tuesday as President-elect Obama announces him as his choice for education secretary.

David Brody
CBN News

Obama’s new pick for Education secretary is Arne Duncan, head of Chicago Public Schools. He’s been pushing for Chicago to start their first gay high school. Not kidding.

Obama is going to get a lot of flack over this pick from social conservative groups and it wouldn’t surprise me if Republican Senators raise a fuss about this during his confirmation hearing. Mark my words. Read below from The Chicago Tribune:

The Chicago Public Schools' first high school designed for gay, lesbian and transgender teens is among 20 new schools recommended to the school board today by CPS Chief Arne Duncan.

The proposed schools range from technology-focused high schools to the School for Social Justice Pride Campus, which officials said would cater to but not focus exclusively on gay youth.

Backers said they envision a small high school offering a college-preparatory curriculum in which students would take four years each of English and math, three years each of foreign languages and science, as well as fine arts and physical education. It would be a performance school, meaning it would have the same staffing and oversight requirements as other district schools.

The announcement of the schools, which are expected to open in the fall of 2009 and 2010, took place at the Chicago International Charter School's Ralph Ellison Campus, 1817 W. 80th St. Public hearings on the proposed schools are expected before the Board of Education votes on them Oct. 22.

"If you look at national studies, you see gay and lesbian students with high dropout rates...Studies show they are disproportionately homeless," Duncan said. "I think there is a niche there we need to fill."

Supporters have said the Pride Campus would help students find a safe school environment because studies have shown that gay youth are at a greater risk of dropping out of school and abusing drugs and alcohol, and are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide. A 2003 district survey shows that gay and lesbian youths are three times more likely to miss school because they don't feel safe.

Opponents have called the move a misuse of public funds. At a recent public hearing on the proposal, some gay rights advocates have said the move would segregate these students and said the district should work more on fostering acceptance by mainstream students, teachers and other school officials.


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