Obama Mines Clinton Staff to Fill First Staff Jobs

In one of his first acts since being elected president, Barack Obama called on two former Clinton administration staffers to head his transition team and serve as chief of staff.

After a nearly two-year campaign, President-elect Obama has 77 days to hand-pick a Cabinet and advisers to help set and carry through his agenda -- a difficult task made all the more difficult by his interest in maintaining his campaign promise to change the culture of Washington.

As an indication of how tough that change might be, Obama's initial appointments of former Bill Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta to oversee his transition and former Clinton policy adviser Rep. Rahm Emanuel are being hailed by some as the right picks for the jobs and derided by others as more of the same.

"You can look at these choices in two ways," said ABC News political consultant Torie Clarke, herself a former Pentagon spokeswoman. "Barack Obama doesn't want to make the same mistakes Clinton made by not having enough experienced people on board. Obama needs seasoned hands who know Washington.

"On the other hand and, I think, more profoundly, there are some Republicans, Independents and moderates who believed him when he said, 'I want to change the culture. I want to reach across the aisle and have people representing different points of view in my administration.' It is still early and there are more choices to make," she said. "People are going to be watching very carefully because it's difficult to imagine a more partisan choice than Rahm Emanuel," an Illinois congressman.

In addition to Podesta and Emanuel, a number of former Clinton staffers and Cabinet members have been named to the transition team, and three of the four names being floated as a potential treasury secretary have roots in the Clinton White House.

The senior staff and advisery board of the transition team include 10 former Clinton officials, including former Commerce Secretary William Daley and Frederico Pena, who served as both secretary of transportation and energy.

Obama's Advisors and Cabinet

"The president-elect has to put together a team of the best people he can find who are like-minded that he can trust them to follow through on his orders," said Stephen Hess, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who worked in the Eisenhower, Ford and Carter administrations and recently wrote a primer on presidential transitions called "What Do We Do Now?"

"The president-elect shouldn't be worried about how his decision is going to play in the media or on Capitol Hill," he said. "Podesta has been putting together information on the transition in a comprehensive and serious way for a while. He is a logical person to move ahead with planning. You want someone who has been there and, as a former chief of staff, he gets the White House."

The selection of Emanuel, a practitioner of no-holds-barred politics who's a veteran of Clinton's bitter battles with the "vast right-wing conspiracy" and impeachment proceedings, has already rattled some Republicans.

"This is an ironic choice for a president-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil, and govern from the center," said House Republican leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

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