President-elect Barack Obama presented a national security team today whose members have widely divergent points of view from Obama and one another.
Besides Sen. Hillary Clinton, Obama's nominee for secretary of state, the president-elect has decided to keep Defense Secretary Robert Gates, appointed by President Bush, in that position, and has nominated Sen. John McCain's old friend, retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones, to become national security adviser.
Obama presented his national security team as a "new dawn of American leadership."
Although today's press conference had been planned for some weeks, Obama quickly acknowledged that his appointments were being made in the shadow of terrorism, a reference to the attacks in Mumbai, India.
"Last week, we were reminded of this threat once again when terrorists took the lives of six Americans among nearly 200 victims in Mumbai," he said.
Obama said he and his national security team met early today "to discuss the situation in Mumbai and some of the challenges that we face in the months and years ahead."
"I am absolutely committed to eliminating terrorism," he vowed today.
After acknowledging the continuing menace of terrorism, Obama said, "In this uncertain world, the time has come for a new beginning -- a new dawn of American leadership."
Obama charged his team with protecting the nation by relying on a "strategy that skillfully uses, balances and integrates all elements of American power: our military and diplomacy; our intelligence and law enforcement; our economy and the power of our moral example."
The lineup of Cabinet members that stood behind Obama today at his Chicago news conference is a high-powered and experienced crew, topped by Clinton, his former rival and now his and choice as the nation's top diplomat.
Although Clinton and other nominees have clashed with Obama's positions on foreign policy and national security in the past, he praised them today as a smart team for change
"I am going to be welcoming a vigorous debate inside the White House," Obama said. Asked by ABC News if he'd sought private assurances from individuals in his Cabinet who have expressed differences with his views that they'd be able to carry out his vision regardless, the president-elect said, "I did not ask for assurances from these individuals that they would agree with me at all times. I think they understand, and would not be joining this team unless they understood and were prepared to carry out the decisions that have been made by me after full discussion."
In his prepared remarks, Obama noted, "They share my pragmatism about the use of power."
Obama's national security lineup also includes Susan Rice as United Nations ambassador, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and Eric Holder as attorney general.
It is a mix of people from very different political orbits who hold divergent views on national security but all are steeped in experience.
Holder and Rice both worked in the administration of Bill Clinton, although Rice was also an early backer of Obama's candidacy.
Jones is an old friend of Obama's defeated Republican rival, Sen. John McCain -- as Marine liaison to Capitol Hill in the 1970s, he was nominally McCain's subordinate as Navy liaison -- and he appeared at least once with McCain at a campaign stop.