New thread on Obama appointments: labor, trade and science

News about several more key appointments by President-elect Barack Obama emerged today. His choice for Secretary of Labor will be Representative Hilda Solis of California, a bit of a surprise since she didn’t seem to be on any of the short lists leaked so far.

Solis comes from a union family and is a passionate supporter of the Employee Free Choice Act (also known as “card check,” which would make it easier to organize workers in non-union workplaces). Her voting record on labor issues is very solid.

TomP has more background on Solis, including YouTubes.

Ideally, Obama would have introduced his Labor Secretary along with the rest of his economic team to underscore the importance of the job, but I’m not going to quibble about the timing. This is a very solid appointment. I assume that Solis would not give up a safe House seat unless Obama had given her some assurances that he would keep his campaign promise to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

Speaking of which, Representative Xavier Becerra of California declined Obama’s offer to become U.S. Trade Representative a few days ago. It was a smart move, as Becerra has a chance to become Speaker of the House someday. Today Obama offered that job to former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, who had previously been mentioned as a possible candidate for Secretary of Transportation.

Obama made some campaign promises about replacing “free trade” with “fair trade,” but it’s not clear whether choosing Kirk signals a plan to retreat from those promises. The Wall Street Journal argued that

By naming Mr. Kirk, Mr. Obama nodded to the free-trade wing of the Democratic Party, which is small but has important ties to business.

Solis is firmly in the “fair trade” camp of the Democratic Party.

Obama’s chief science adviser will be the physicist John Holdren, an internationally-renowned expert on energy and climate issues. He is apparently a highly effective communicator as well as a brilliant scientist.

Obama also has chosen Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a very large agency within the Commerce Department. The Deep Sea News blog ran with the headline, “Obama Appoints Totally Awesome Marine Biologist to Head NOAA!”

Holy Mola! I can’t contain my excitement about this appointment. Her work in marine ecology and conservation is seminal and her involvement in science outreach is phenomenal. This marks a new era for NOAA indeed. I am very excited to see where she takes the agency. Yet again, another amazing Obama appointment. It feels so strange to have a president who respects science and appoints highly qualified people to important posts.

It’s looking more and more like Obama is serious about tackling the global warming problem. But can any of the highly qualified scientists he’s appointed talk him out of promoting “clean coal”?

UPDATE: Reuters says Obama “has chosen retired Navy Adm. Dennis Blair as the top U.S. intelligence official” and will announce that decision soon.

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Open thread on Obama's national security team

According to ABC, Barack Obama will roll out his national security team soon after this weekend.  

All indications suggest that Hillary Clinton will become secretary of state.

ABC says keeping Defense Secretary Robert Gates on for at least a year is "a done deal." Others likely to be appointed include  

Marine Gen. Jim Jones (Ret.) as National Security Adviser; Admiral Dennis Blair (Ret.) as Director of National Intelligence; and Dr. Susan Rice as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

 Todd Beeton goes over the pros and cons of keeping Gates in place.

 A lot of Obama supporters seem comfortable with this decision. If the new president keeps his promise to withdraw most of our troops from Iraq safely within 16 months, there’s an argument for sticking with someone at Defense who’s already familiar with the situation on the ground. My main concern is that Gates will strenuously argue that we need to keep a large contingent in Iraq and give Obama cover to break his campaign promise.

Looks like no one who opposed the Iraq war from the start will be in Obama’s inner circle on foreign policy.

In the unambiguously good news column, John Brennan withdrew his name from consideration to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Glenn Greenwald (among others) made the case against Brennan last week.

UPDATE: Jon Soltz, co-founder of VoteVets, argues that “the Gates pick works.”

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