FROM FOE TO SECRETARY OF STATE

Obama nominates Clinton to serve in Cabinet; Paterson will name her replacement in Senate

CASEY SEILER STATE EDITOR WITH WIRE REPORTS
Section: Main,  Page: A1

Date: Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Weeks of speculation and behind-the-scenes intrigue ended Monday morning as President-elect Barack Obama nominated New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to serve as his secretary of state, making his one-time chief rival for the Democratic nomination his principal foreign policy operative.


The announcement was the first item of business at a Chicago news conference in which Obama named his national security team, which will include current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.


Clinton, the first to speak after Obama introduced the new Cabinet nominees, began by thanking him for the opportunity. "I would also like to thank my fellow New Yorkers," she added, noting that her eight years representing the state have prepared her to be the nation's top diplomat.


"New Yorkers aren't afraid to speak their minds, and do so in every language," said the former first lady, who endured charges of carpetbagging during her initial campaign to emerge as a forceful advocate for the state in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.


Clinton cited a long list of global challenges facing the nation, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to global warming and the ongoing threat of terrorism. "The fate of our nation and the future of our children will be forged in the crucible of these crises," Clinton said.


The solution, she added, would require "more partners, fewer adversaries," and an acknowledgement that global issues will be solved neither by force alone nor Americans alone.


The question of Clinton's replacement in the Senate now falls on Gov. David Paterson, who was holding his own Cabinet meeting during Obama's announcement.


"New York will lose a powerful voice in the Senate," Paterson said in a statement released a few hours later. "But the nation will gain a powerful voice in the world."


During a Monday afternoon news conference at the Capitol, the governor asked the media to take a day to set aside speculation about Clinton's possible successor in order to honor her service to the state and the remarkable new turn in her career.


The media failed to cooperate, peppering Paterson with questions about his timeline for making the decision and the criteria he'll use to assess the contenders. Asked point-blank for his opinion of Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand's fitness for the post, the governor paused.


"When you asked that question, did you think I was going to answer it?" he said.


Paterson reiterated that he would wait until after Clinton had completed confirmation hearings before naming her replacement; Clinton's office said she will not officially step down until she has been confirmed.


Possible contenders for the post include state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo as well as several current members of Congress, among them Gillibrand, Carolyn Maloney, Nydia Velazquez, Louise Slaughter and Brian Higgins. One prominent potential replacement, downstate Rep. Nita Lowey, said Monday she's not interested in the job.


Clinton's replacement would face a special election in 2010 -- when Paterson's name also will appear on the ballot as he seeks his first elected term as governor -- and again in the regular Senate cycle in 2012.


A speedy decision would not send Clinton's successor to the Senate with an added margin of seniority over other freshman lawmakers: Senate Democratic Secretary Lula Davis said that even if a replacement was picked and sworn in next week, that person would be considered no more senior than any of the newly elected senators coming to Congress in January.


An early selection would, however, have given the replacement seniority in picking office space.


The state's senior senator, Chuck Schumer, called Clinton "a superb public servant for the people of New York, a terrific partner to work with in the Senate, and a great friend." Former President Bill Clinton posted his reaction on his wife's campaign site, commending Obama "for asking her to be a part of a great national security team. America will be well-served."


The rest of Obama's security team includes Washington lawyer Eric Holder as attorney general and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as homeland security secretary.


Gates, who replaced Donald Rumsfeld in 2006 as President Bush's secretary of defense, will stay on the job after Obama is sworn in on Jan. 20.


"I didn't check his voter registration," Obama said of Gates in response to a reporter's question about whether his decision to keep the current defense secretary would be the beginning or the end of his commitment to include Republicans in his administration.


Obama also named two senior foreign policy positions outside the Cabinet: campaign foreign policy adviser Susan Rice as U.N. ambassador and retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones as national security adviser.


During their extended primary battle, Obama and Clinton frequently traded charges of inexperience and bad judgment on issues ranging from Clinton's Senate vote in favor of the war in Iraq to Obama's professed willingness to sit down with new Cuban President Raul Castro.


On Monday, Obama said Clinton's forceful intellect will help prevent his administration from falling into "groupthink."


Asked how he came to see Sen. Clinton as the best person to represent his administration around the world, Obama told reporters "It was not a light-bulb moment."


"I have always believed that she was tough and smart and disciplined, and shares my core values and the values of the American people," he said of Clinton, whose endorsement of Obama's candidacy provided one of the dramatic high points of August's Democratic National Convention.


Casey Seiler can be reached at 454-5619 or cseiler@timesunion.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story.





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Weeks of speculation and behind-the-scenes intrigue ended Monday morning as President-elect Barack Obama named New York Sen. Hillary Clinton to serve as his Secretary of State, making his onetime chief rival for the Democratic nomination his principal foreign policy operative.


The announcement was the first item of business at a Chicago press conference in which Obama named his national security team, which will include current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.


Clinton, the first to speak after Obama introduced the new cabinet members, began by thanking him for the opportunity. "I would also like to thank my fellow New Yorkers," she added, noting that her eight years representing the state have prepared her to be the nation's top diplomat.


"New Yorkers aren't afraid to speak their minds, and do so in every language," said the former first lady, who endured charges of carpetbagging during her initial campaign to emerge as a forceful advocate for the state in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.


Clinton cited a long list of global challenges facing the nation, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to global warming and the ongoing threat of terrorism. "The fate of our nation and the future of our children will be forged in the crucible of these crises," Clinton said.


The solution, she added, would require "more partners, fewer adversaries," and an acknowledgement that global issues will be solved neither by force alone or Americans alone.


The question of Clinton's replacement in the Senate now falls on Gov. David Paterson, who was holding his own cabinet meeting during Obama's announcement.


"New York will lose a powerful voice in the Senate," Paterson said in a statement released a few hours later. "But the nation will gain a powerful voice in the world."


During a Monday afternoon press conference at the Capitol, the governor asked the media to take a day to set aside speculation about Clinton's possible successor in order to honor her service to the state and the remarkable new turn in her career.


The media failed to cooperate, peppering Paterson with questions about his timeline for making the decision and the criteria he'll use to assess the contenders. Asked point-blank for his opinion of Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand's fitness for the post, the governor paused.


"When you asked that question, did you think I was going to answer it?," he said.


Paterson reiterated that he would wait until after Clinton had completed confirmation hearings before naming her replacement; Clinton's office said she will not officially step down until she has been confirmed.


Possible contenders for the post include state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo as well as several current members of Congress, among them Gillibrand, Carolyn Maloney, Nydia Velazquez, Louise Slaughter and Brian Higgins. One prominent potential replacement, downstate Rep. Nita Lowey, said Monday she's not interested in the job.


Clinton's replacement would face a special election in 2010 -- when Paterson's name will also appear on the ballot as he seeks his first elected term as governor -- and again in the regular Senate cycle in 2012.


A speedy decision would not send Clinton's successor to the Senate with an added margin of seniority over other freshman lawmakers: Senate Democratic Secretary Lula Davis said that even if a replacement was picked and sworn in next week, that person would be considered no more senior than any of the newly elected senators coming to Congress in January.


An early selection would, however, have given the replacement seniority in picking office space.


The state's senior senator, Chuck Schumer, called Clinton "a superb public servant for the people of New York, a terrific partner to work with in the Senate, and a great friend." Former President Bill Clinton posted his reaction on his wife's campaign site, commending Obama "for asking her to be a part of a great national security team. America will be well-served."


The rest of Obama's security team will include Washington lawyer Eric Holder as attorney general and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as homeland security secretary.


Gates, who replaced Donald Rumsfeld in 2006 as President George W. Bush's secretary of defense, will stay on the job after Obama is sworn in on Jan. 20.


"I didn't check his voter registration," Obama said of Gates in answer to a reporter's question about whether his decision to keep the current Defense Secretary would be the beginning or the end of his commitment to include Republicans in his administration.


Obama also named two senior foreign policy positions outside the Cabinet: campaign foreign policy adviser Susan Rice as U.N. ambassador and retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones as national security adviser.


During their extended primary battle, Obama and Clinton frequently traded charges of inexperience and bad judgment on issues ranging from Clinton's Senate vote in favor of the war in Iraq to Obama's professed willingness to sit down with new Cuban president Raul Castro.


On Monday, Obama said Clinton's forceful intellect will help prevent his administration from falling into "groupthink."


Asked how he came to see Sen. Clinton as the best person to represent his administration around the world, Obama told reporters "It was not a light-bulb moment."


"I have always believed that she was tough and smart and disciplined, and shares my core values and the values of the American people," he said of Clinton, whose endorsement of Obama's candidacy provided one of the dramatic high points of August's Democratic National Convention.


Casey Seiler can be reached at 454-5619 or cseiler@timesunion.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story.