Who\’s Who in \’Team Obama\’

Some are familiar faces, others will be little-known to those inside or outside the US, but all are set to become key players.


So who are the men and women Obama will turn to when puzzling over the global economic downturn, the crisis in Gaza or troubles closer to home?

Joe Biden | Hillary Clinton | Rahm Emanuel | Timothy Geithner | Hilda Solis | Tom Daschle | Susan Rice | Arne Duncan | Eric Holder | Steven Chu | Eric Shinseki | Janet Napolitano | James L Jones | Ken Salazar | Robert Gates | Leon Panetta | Sanjay Gupta

Joe Biden

Barack Obama\’s rival-turned-running mate, Joe Biden, will take the Vice Presidential oath of office on Inauguration Day (January 20).

Currently one of America\’s most senior Senators, Biden hails from the tiny eastern state of Delaware.

A long-tem member of the Foreign Relations Committee – of which he is presently chairman – Biden is expected to be one of Obama\’s most trusted advisers when foreign affairs are at stake.

Hillary Clinton

Former foe Hillary Clinton, who waged a long and bitter campaign against Barack Obama for the Democratic Party\’s presidential nomination, has seen her determination – and the high esteem in which she is held by much of the party – rewarded with a senior position in the new administration.

Clinton – currently the junior Senator for New York – will serve as Secretary of State, succeeding Condoleezza Rice in the role.

Clinton has made much of the diplomatic experience she gained as First Lady, and her new post will offer the chance to prove herself in what she admits will be a “difficult and exciting adventure”.

Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Emanuel was one of President-elect Obama\’s first appointments, named White House Chief of Staff on November 6, just two days after the Democrat\’s election victory.

Father-of-three Emanuel, 49, a one-time investment banker, is currently a member of the US House of Representatives, for part of Obama\’s home state of Illinois.

A former senior adviser to ex-President Bill Clinton, he is known for his \’attack dog\’ persona, which has earned him the nickname \’Rahmbo\’.

Emanuel\’s brother Ari, a Hollywood agent, was the inspiration for the character Ari Gold in the TV series Entourage. According to Time magazine, Emanuel himself inspired a character on the show The West Wing.

Timothy Geithner

Timonthy Geithner looks set to have his hands full in the post of Secretary of the Treasury.

Obama has signalled that reversing the troubled US economy\’s decline is one of his top priorities as president, and Geithner will play a leading role in that tough task, overseeing the planned multi-billion-dollar stimulus package.

Geithner, 47, a father-of-two, spent much of his childhood living overseas – including stints in Zimbabwe, India and Thailand – because of his own father\’s job. After studying Japanese, Chinese and economics he continued the globetrotting, as an attache at the US embassy in Tokyo

On his return to the US, he worked at both the Treasury and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), before being appointed president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Hilda Solis

Obama\’s pick for Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, is a four-term Congresswoman from California, known for her devotion to environmental issues.

A long-term champion of workers\’ rights, Solis, 51, is one of several Hispanic members of the new administration – her mother is originally from Nicaragua, her father from Mexico.

A close ally and friend of Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Solis was the was the first woman ever to win the John F Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award. The prize recognises those who have risked their career or life for the greater good.

Tom Daschle

Tom Daschle, who has been chosen as the Secretary of Health in Barack Obama\’s cabinet, is a Washington heavyweight, having served as Senate Majority Leader from 2001 to 2003.

Daschle, 61, has served as both a member of the House of Representatives, and as a Senator (both for his home state of South Dakota), notching up 26 years\’ experience in Washington before he lost his Senate seat in 2004.

He gained worldwide fame in 2001, when, shortly after the September 11 attacks, his office was the target of an anthrax attack. Several of his staffers were exposed to the potentially deadly toxin, and two postal workers died.

As director of the newly-formed White House Office of Health Reform, grandfather-of-four Daschle is expected to play a key role in Obama\’s attempts to improve healthcare provisions across the US.

Susan Rice

Foreign policy expert Susan Rice is the first black American woman named as US ambassador to the UN.

The 44-year-old mother-of-two was born and brought up in Washington DC, where she was a star student and basketball player.

Rice studied at California\’s Stanford University (where her namesake Condoleezza – no relation – taught) before a Rhodes Scholarship took her to Oxford, where she completed her doctorate.

She went on to work for fellow Rhodes Scholar Bill Clinton, serving as one of his top advisers on African affairs during his second presidential term.

Arne Duncan

Obama\’s pick for Secretary of Education has spent many years working to improve the lot of youngsters in tough inner city areas.

Currently the boss of Chicago\’s school system, Arne Duncan grew up in the city, reportedly counting R&B singer R Kelly among his childhood friends.

Like Susan Rice – and Obama – Duncan is a keen basketballer. He co-captained the team at Harvard, and spent four years playing professionally in Australia\’s National Basketball League.

He met his Aussie wife, Karen, while in Tasmania, later returning to the US with her. The couple has two children.

Eric Holder

Like his soon-to-be boss, Eric Holder will make history as the first black American to hold his position, when he becomes Attorney General.

Holder, 57, a career lawyer, and a father-of-three, was born in The Bronx, New York; his family is originally from Barbados.

He served as Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton administration, and as acting Attorney General for several weeks in 2001.

A trusted advisor to Barack Obama, Holder was one of three members of the committee which helped him select Joe Biden as his running mate.

Steven Chu

Steven Chu\’s new role is a tough ask: as Energy Secretary, it will be down to him to help realise Obama\’s pre-election vow to cut America\’s dependence on foreign oil.

But he\’s certainly got the brains needed to puzzle over the problem: Chu, a physics professor from a family of academics, won the Nobel Prize in 1997 for his work trapping atoms with lasers.

His status as an advocate of solar energy and biofuels offers a glimpse at the approach he may take to tackle climate change.

Twice-married father-of-two Chu, 60, a second-generation Chinese-American, will be the first Nobel laureate to serve in the US cabinet.

Eric Shinseki

Former four-star general Eric Shinseki is Barack Obama\’s choice to head up the Department of Veterans\’ Affairs – a key role in a country involved in two punishing wars.

The 66-year-old Hawaiian father-of-two is no stranger to combat, having served two tours of duty in Vietnam, where he lost part of his foot after stepping on a landmine.

Shinseki was the first Asian-American appointed as the US Army\’s Chief of Staff, but his tenure was marked by bitter clashes with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The pair disagreed wildly over troop levels in Iraq, leading to a very public row; no senior officials attended the ceremony when he retired shortly afterwards.

Janet Napolitano

Outgoing President George W Bush has rounded off his time in office insisting that America is still at risk from its enemies abroad; as Secretary of Homeland Security, it will be Janet Napolitano\’s job to prevent any such attack.

In choosing her, Obama said that as Governor of Arizona, the 51-year-old was well-qualified for the task: “She understands as well as anyone the danger of an unsecure border”.

However, she is a vocal opponent of suggestions the US build a fence along its border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants, telling reporters: “If you build a 50-foot-high wall, somebody will find a 51-foot ladder”.

Breast cancer survivor Napolitano is a keen mountaineer who has climbed in the Himalayas and reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

James L Jones

Retired Marine general James L Jones has been chosen as Barack Obama\’s National Security Adviser.

Jones, 65, was born in the US, but grew up in France. After graduating fron university, he joined the Marines.

He served in Vietnam, Japan, Iraq, and Bosnia, as well as the US, reportedly turning down an offer to serve as commander of US Central Command.

Ken Salazar

Stetson-wearing rancher and politician Ken Salazar will serve as Secretary of the Interior in Barack Obama\’s new cabinet.

Salazar, 53, a Colorado Senator and former lawyer, is of Mexican descent. He and his wife have two daughters, and one granddaughter.

His elder brother John is a Congressman for the pair\’s home state.

Salazar\’s selection for the Interior role – which covers everything from National Parks to the US Geological Survey – has been met with some criticism, given his support for a number of environmentally-unfriendly policies.

Robert Gates

Barack Obama has courted controversy by asking Bush administration member Robert Gates to continue in his post as Secretary of Defense.

Gates has had the job since 2006, when he took over from the equally controversial Donald Rumsfeld, President George W Bush\’s right-hand man.

Prior to the Pentagon, the 65-year-old father-of-two spent 26 years working for the CIA. He was criticised for failing to grasp the impending collapse of the Soviet Union while working for the agency.

He was reportedly relunctant to stay on in his role after Obama\’s inauguration, but was persuaded that it was \’his duty\’ to do so.

Leon Panetta

While Gates has chalked up plenty of years in the CIA, Obama\’s pick for Director of that organisation has precisely none.

Leon Panetta\’s selection as the new boss of the Central Intelligence Agency was met with surprise by Washington insiders, who questioned his lack of intelligence experience.

Panetta, the son of Italian immigrants, was former president Bill Clinton\’s chief of staff from 1994 to 1997, following a 16-year career as a politician representing California.

The 70-year-old grandfather-of-five was also Director of the Office for Civil Rights in the Nixon administration.

Observers say his political savvy and connections should make him a powerful CIA director.

Sanjay Gupta

As news channel CNN\’s health correspondent, Dr Sanjay Gupta is already a familiar face to millions of Americans – now he could have a more important role in their lives, as US Surgeon General.

Gupta, 39, has reportedly been offered and accepted the key medical role; final vetting for the position is currently under way.

The son of Indian immigrants, Gupta trained as a neurosurgeon before turning to medical journalism.

In 2003 he was embedded with a Naval medical unit during the invasion of Iraq; he carried out a series of life-saving brain surgery operations during his \’tour of duty\’.

He was a special adviser to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton during her husband\’s presidency.