Summers and Geithner Are Obama's Change Agents

His team also includes longtime loyalists like David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett.


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, loyalists from his campaign, and people he barely knowsall 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 change agents and designated thinkers. Obama has created what amounts to a think tank throughout his government—men and women whose responsibility will be to come up with innovative ideas where possible for solving the nation's problems. Among them are White House economics adviser Larry Summers, a former treasury secretary under Bill Clinton; incoming Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; energy "czarina" Carol Browner, a former director of the Environmental Protection Agency; and incoming Commerce Secretary Bill Richardson, the current governor of New Mexico and a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Keepers of the flame. Obama has tucked some longtime loyalists and Chicago confidants into the system, including David Axelrod and businesswoman Valerie Jarrett. Their loyalty is intense and unwavering. Also fitting into that category is incoming White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, a relative newcomer to Obama's inner circle but someone who is an expert on Obama's life story and political narrative. They will work to ensure that the administration doesn't lose sight of Obama's campaign promises, and they will promote his message of change and bipartisanship.