Monday, December 1, 2008; 11:53 AM
CHICAGO, Dec. 1 -- President-elect Barack Obama Monday formally announced a national security team that is led by his onetime chief Democratic rival and includes a top member of President Bush's Cabinet -- a bipartisan group that he said shares his Pragmatism and his commitment to strengthen America's standing in the world.In a news conference in Chicago, Obama introduced Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as secretary of state, bringing on board the candidate who battled him for the Democratic presidential nomination during a long primary season. As America's top diplomat, Clinton will be the face of Obama's efforts to remake the country's foreign policy.
Obama also announced that Bush's defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, has agreed to remain in the job in the new administration, providing continuity while taking on what the president-elect said would be a new mission: "responsibly ending the war in Iraq through a successful transition to Iraqi control."
As he introduced Clinton, Gates and other members of his team, Obama stressed that "in the 21st century, our destiny is shared with the world's" and that the United States has a stake in global events regarding such matters as financial markets, public health, climate change and security from terrorism.
"And so, in this uncertain world, the time has come for a new beginning -- a new dawn of American leadership to overcome the challenges of the 21st century," Obama said. "We will strengthen our capacity to defeat our enemies and support our friends. We will renew old alliances and forge new and enduring partnerships. We will show the world once more that America is relentless in defense of our people, steady in advancing our interests, and committed to the ideals that shine as a beacon to the world: democracy and justice; opportunity and unyielding hope -- because American values are America's greatest export to the world."
He said the members of his national security team "share my pragmatism about the use of power and my sense of purpose about America's role as a leader in the world."
He hailed Clinton as a "tough campaign opponent" who knows many of the world's leaders and "will command respect in every capital." He added: "Hillary's appointment is a sign to friend and foe of the seriousness of my commitment to renew American diplomacy and restore our alliances."
Obama said that Gates, who took the helm at the Pentagon two years ago, has "restored accountability" during his tenure and "won the confidence of military commanders." Gates also has "earned the respect of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle for his pragmatism and competence," Obama said.
In the new administration, he said, Gates will shift the U.S. focus in the war on terrorism to Afghanistan, where a resurgent Taliban has been gaining ground and al-Qaeda poses a threat from safe havens across the border in Pakistan.
During this year's campaign for the Democratic nomination, Obama and Clinton had each claimed to be the best candidate to restore the nation's reputation abroad, end the Iraq war and engage the new global economy as president. Now, they will try to do that together, though under Obama's direction.
Gates was tapped to continue as defense secretary despite having overseen a war policy that was the subject of withering criticism from both Obama and Clinton during the campaign.
To be successful, Gates and Clinton will have to forge a working relationship that often eludes the secretaries of state and defense even when they are members of the same party. Gates and Clinton will have their own power bases, and each has sought assurances of access to Obama. But Obama clearly believes the pair can work together, especially on the difficult task of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.