President-elect Barack Obama unveiled his national security "dream team" Monday with former opponent Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton topping the field as Secretary of State.
With most of the names known well before the Monday announcement, the only question for those watching the press conference was what exactly would the President-elect say in describing the latest round of cabinet and key aide selections.
Obama called it "a new dan of American leadership" even though he has turned more and more to Washington insiders to be the symbols of the change that he promised the American people during the election campaign.
What remains to be seen is whether or not Obama can put together a team composed largely of retreads from the administration of former President Bill Clinton and still convince the American people that this represents change.
President-elect Barack Obama called for “a new dawn of American leadership” on Monday as he formally introduced his national security team, led by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as his nominee for secretary of state.
“We will strengthen our capacity to defeat our enemies and support our friends,” Mr. Obama said in Chicago. “We will renew old alliances and forge new and enduring partnerships.”
The new president said he was sticking to his goal of removing American combat troops from Iraq within 16 months, which he called “the right time frame,” and that this would be accomplished with safety for the troops and security for the Iraqi people.
He introduced his team one by one, starting with Senator Clinton, his former bitter rival for the Democratic presidential nomination; then Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who will stay on, at least for a time, in the new administration; Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander, to be national security adviser; Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona to be secretary of homeland security: Susan E. Rice to be ambassador to the United Nations, and Eric H. Holder Jr. to be attorney general.
All of the nominations had been forecast, and the president-elect’s announcement contained no surprises. It did, however, contain some not very thinly veiled criticism of the Bush administration.
“Hillary’s appointment is a sign to friend and foe of the seriousness of my commitment to renew American diplomacy and restore our alliances,” Mr. Obama said, apparently alluding to the effects of President Bush’s Iraq policy — which the president-elect has bitterly criticized — on America’s international relationships.
And when the new president introduced Mr. Holder, he said: “Let me be clear: The attorney general serves the American people, and I have every expectation that Eric will protect our people, uphold the public trust and adhere to our Constitution.”
President Bush’s handling of the Justice Department has often been criticized, with much of the denunciation focused on former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, who was portrayed by many Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill as little more than Mr. Bush’s personal lawyer.
Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee and has been a frequent critic of the Justice Department, said Mr. Holder was a superb choice to carry out the agency’s top priority, “rebuilding morale and public confidence.”
The choice of Senator Clinton to be the country’s top diplomat has drawn the most attention in recent weeks, in part because of the months-long duel between her and Mr. Obama for the nomination that once was viewed as all but certain to go to her. But the bitterness of their contest seemed all but forgotten on Monday, as Mr. Obama introduced the senator as “my dear friend.”