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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Scramble for top jobs at the White House, after the 2008 USA Presidential Election

Thursday Nov 06, 2008--WASHINGTON - The fizz had barely gone from the champagne flutes when President-elect Barack Obama received his first official national security briefing.

There is urgency all around.

With two wars raging and an economic crisis on a scale not seen since the Great Depression, Mr Obama needs to assemble an administration that will start delivering on his promise to transform Washington.

The President-elect is expected to operate from his Chicago headquarters for the next two months, but a vast suite of offices has already been set aside in Washington.

Strict protocol means that Mr Obama has no formal power until the moment of the hand-over, at lunchtime on Tuesday 20 January.

For foreign policy, for example, the most the President-elect is expected to do is to accept a few congratulatory phone calls from overseas.

As a sitting senator and President-elect, Mr Obama is in a unique position however.

With Congress convening in two weeks time for its final "lame duck" session, he must now decide whether to keep his distance, as his allies are advising.

The process of assembling a cabinet began before the election, with his staff hinting at the potential for "outside the box" picks for top jobs.

One of his first appointments is expected to be the chief of staff and there is speculation that he will pick the political street brawler and Chicago congressman Rahm Emanuel, a former Clinton aide.

Mr Obama helped deliver a Democratic majority in Congress but needs an accomplished insider to drive his agenda.

Mr Emanuel has coveted the job of House speaker, but may defer that ambition.

Mr Obama also needs to find roles for the political aides who delivered his victory, including his campaign manager David Plouffe, chief strategist David Axelrod, and his communications team, headed by Robert Gibbs and Dan Pfeiffer.

Interim appointments will be announced at any time, in the hope that when Mr Obama formally takes power he will hit the ground running.

But while he may quickly select his staff, the appointments only become effective when he has formal Congressional approval.

That will happen after he has taken office.

The most vulnerable time will be the first days after 20 January 2008, when he has to rely on his gut instincts and will not have high level counsellors in place to guide him.

Instead there will be a cacophony of those who have been advising his campaign.

There are 300 advisers on foreign policy alone.

Many of the names being bandied about for top positions will quickly pass the vetting process.

John Kerry is a hot favourite for Secretary of State.

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