Exclusive: Appointment Fever and Surprises from Left Field

by WALTER ANDERSON December 17, 2008

As we continue to examine President-elect Obama’s appointments, let’s also take a look at a few things nobody thought would take place at this time that may have an effect on Obama and some of his staff. 

Rod Blagojevich
I mention Rod Blagojevich, the Democrat Governor of Illinois because…well, what else is anyone talking about these days?
Blagojevich, known as “Blago” to those of us who live in Illinois, was arrested last week for a number of things, but the most egregious act mentioned in the complaint against him was his attempt to “sell” the Senate seat being vacated by Obama due to his becoming President. The above hyperlink will take you to the exact criminal complaint (all 78 pages) filed last week by the Department of Justice/Attorney General against Blagojevich.
Obama was meeting with Al Gore regarding global warming (what else does Gore talk about these days?) on December 9, 2008, just as news of Blagojevich’s arrest hit the streets. There is no indication that Obama was aware of the arrest before the warrant was served and I imagine it was quite a shock – although it was not secret that Blagojevich was under investigation as it was known he was being watched by the government since 2004.
Most recently, Blago endorsed Obama for President even though the two reportedly did not enjoy a particularly close friendship. In 2002 when Blagojevich was a candidate for Governor of Illinois, he was endorsed by then-State Sen. Obama. In that election and in the 2006 election for the same position, both Obama and Rahm Emanuel, who is now Obama’s Chief of Staff, were top advisors to Blagojevich.
More Bad Apples
These two rather tainted individuals are tied to both Obama and Blagojevich and they are none other than imprisoned Stuart Levine and convicted (awaiting sentencing) Tony Rezko. Both these men were convicted of extortion by soliciting money for getting state contracts awarded with a portion of the money going to Blagojevich’s campaign funds. In addition to being donors and fundraisers for Blagojevich, they also did the same for Obama. In 1990, Rezko offered Obama a job in his firm Rezmar, Inc., but Obama turned it down and took a job with a law firm in Chicago instead. Rezko was also involved, as you may recall, in the real estate deal where Obama purchased the mansion where he livesin Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood on the fringe of the liberal/elite section of Chicago known as Hyde Park. Blagojevich was at the base of Rezko’s federal corruption case by bundling an alleged $1.4 million in political contributions. In addition, Blagojevich’s wife, Patricia, worked for Rezko at one time in real estate sales. Stuart Levine, a Republican fundraiser, was convicted for using Rezko's influence with officials to coerce millions of dollars in kickbacks from companies that wanted to do business with Illinois.
Obama, at the time of this writing, has claimed no contact with Blagojevich regarding the filling of the U.S. Senate seat he vacated, but it came to light last Sunday that Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff, apparently gave Blagojevich’s staff a list of names that he could choose from that Obama would like to have replace him. This is not necessarily underhanded, but it shows that there was indeed some communication between Obama’s staff and Blagojevich.
Obama’s Nominations and Appointments: Going Down the Line
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
General Eric K. Shinseki is Obama’s pick for this position. He was the Army Chief of Staff who disagreed with President Bush on his Iraq policy. He was forced out of that position after telling Congress they needed “more boots on the ground,” yet he was later proven to be correct when the “surge” proved out to be so successful. He is charged with making the Veterans Administration onto something that works.
Secretary of Commerce
Obama has chosen another contender for the 2008 Democrat Presidential nomination to fill this position. Bill Richardson, current Governor of New Mexico and former Ambassador to the United Nations under Bill Clinton is his nominee. Richardson, being part Hispanic, is a favorite of the Hispanic population and one of the nation’s top Hispanic political figures. Richardson helped Obama rally the Hispanic vote after he bowed out of the race.
Secretary of Health and Human Services
Although this was the position that Rod Blagojevich wanted, Obama nominated former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle – which was no surprise to political watchers. Daschle, no stranger to Washington after eight years in the House and six years in the Senate, certainly knows his way around. Daschle was employed by the firm of Alston and Bird as a special advisor to the firm’s legislative and public policy group after leaving public office. His wife, Linda, was acting administrator of the FAA under Bill Clinton and is currently one of Washington’s top lobbyists in the field of aeronautics representing clients such as Boeing and Lockheed. Daschle’s main focus in the beginning will be reforming healthcare in the United States and he will be assisted by Jeanne Lambrew, who was appointed as Deputy Director of the White House Health Policy Office. Ms. Lambrew helped Daschle write his book about the healthcare crisis.
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Obama’s nominee for the position of Director is Shaun Donovan, who was acting head of the FHA and formerly with HUD during the Clinton Administration. He has worked in the area of housing both public and private and expected to tackle the nation’s mortgage crisis as his first priority. He may also be expected to reform HUD and clean up the problem plagued department.
Department of Energy
Obama has tapped Steven Chu as his energy secretary. Chu, who shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1997, is currently the director of a research lab whose focus is energy efficiency and alternative energy sources. He will be joined by Lisa Jackson as head of the Environmental Protection Agency who was formerly employed at the EPA during the Clinton Administration , Carol Browner, who was Director of the EPA under Clinton from 1993 to 2001, will be a high level coordinator on energy issues reporting directly to the President and Nancy Sutley, a former EPA official under Clinton who Obama wants to be in charge of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Office of Political Affairs
Patrick Gaspardwas slated to serve Obama as his Director of the Office of Political Affairs. Gaspard was the national political director during Obama’s campaign and currently is the Associate Director of Personnel for the Transition Team. Prior to that he was a grassroots organizer for SEIU (Service Employees International Union) in New York and has been involved in many progressive state and local political campaigns in the past.
Cabinet Secretary
Chris Lu is Obama’s designate to fill the position of Cabinet Secretary and will serve as liaison between the White House and the department heads. Lu is currently the executive director of the Obama-Biden Transition Team. During Obama’s stint in the Senate, Lu was his legislative director and acting chief of staff. He was also an advisor in the 2008 campaign.
Chief Economic Advisor to Vice President Biden
Jared Bernstein has been picked by Vice President Biden to fill this position. He is a professional economist and is said to represent the progressive pro-labor perspective. He was the Deputy Chief Economist to the Department of Labor for several years during the Clinton Administration and was selected by Biden to works on the Living Standards Program when he was employed by the Economic Policy Institute.
There are a number of important cabinet and high level staff positions that are left to be filled and Obama is expected to announce those in the near future. He will reportedly be taking an extended family vacation trip including a visit to Hawaii over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
Speaking of the holidays, I would like to take the time to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Healthy and prosperous New Year!
Until next time...
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Walter Anderson has an extensive background in business, served in the Marine Corps, and is experienced in grassroots political activism. Feedback: editorialdirector@familysecuritymatters.org.

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