President-elect Barack Obama has selected his cabinet and assembled most of his senior White House staff, and as Inauguration Day approaches, he is ready, as one of his senior aides says, to "hit the ground running." The social topography of any administration is always a good guide to how a new chief executive will govern, and that's certainly true in Obama's case. He is surrounding himself with a diverse combination of centrists and liberals, experienced Washington players and newcomers to the capital, and loyalists from his campaign and people he barely knows—all with the goal of delivering results as quickly as possible. In this series, U.S. News looks at Obama's team and explores what it will mean for governing the country.
The action officers. Obama will have no shortage of hard-charging staffers at his side—people with a history of getting things done. The question will be how much he can control them and whether they can get along when they disagree. They include Hillary Clinton, who knows her way around the government as a senator from New York and former first lady, and who is a popular figure around the world. Another is Robert Gates, the Pentagon chief who is being held over from the administration of George W. Bush. Another action officer will be Susan Rice, the designated U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a strong advocate of aggressive diplomacy and international cooperation to carry out America's objectives abroad.
On domestic issues, Attorney General-designate Eric Holder will push Obama's liberal ideas on a wide range of legal and constitutional issues, including abortion, affirmative action, the death penalty, gun control, fighting crime, and gay rights. Most other cabinet officers are considered in the same mold, what Democratic pollster and former Bill Clinton adviser Stan Greenberg calls "solution oriented" leaders who will work tirelessly for Obama's goals. They include the officers in charge of homeland security, energy, the environment, public lands, education, and housing and urban development.