Obama transition may finally pick up steam


(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Second-term transitions naturally should be much easier for obvious resasons: the president and his team have done this before and there’s no reason to install an entire cabinet right away.

But even President Bill Clinton, who had a truly chaotic first-term transition, managed in his second term to announce his picks for new secretaries of state (Madeleine Albright) and defense (William Cohen) a month after the election.

The remaining members of the top four cabinet positions, Attorney General Janet Reno and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin stayed on — Reno to the end of the administration and Rubin for about a year.

President George W. Bush, who had an extraordinarily efficient first transition, announced a new attorney general (Alberto Gonzales) within a week of his reelection and his new secretary of state (Condoleezza Rice) Nov. 16. (He called Rice right after the election, which would indicate he’d been doing some transition thinking for a while.)

Bush Treasury Secretary John Snow stayed on for about 18 months and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was fired two years later.

In contrast, President Obama, faced with the long-known departures of his secretaries of state, defense and treasury, has so far named only Sen. John Kerry to be his secretary of state.

But a knowledgeable source said Friday morning that the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel, who’s been sharply criticized by gay rights groups and some Israel backers, would be forthcoming this week.

And Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, a former top official at the CIA during the Bush administration is getting the nod today to head that agency.

There was also chatter that the anticipated departure of Energy Secretary Steven Chu might be announced as early as this week. The leading candidate for that job, we’re hearing, is current deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who has substantial expertise in nuclear weapons and related matters — a key part of the energy department portfolio.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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