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President-elect Obama announced his national security team Monday, choosing Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and keeping Robert Gates as defense secretary. Analysts including former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and Sen. Jack Reed discuss the picks.
After spending three days last week rolling out his economic team, the president-elect switched gears today, in one fell swoop naming six top members of his national security team.
BARACK OBAMA, President-elect of the United States: The time has come for a new beginning, a new dawn of American leadership to overcome the challenges of the 21st century and to seize the opportunities embedded in those challenges.
Mr. Obama confirmed weeks of speculation in introducing New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, his one-time opponent for the Democratic nomination, as his pick for secretary of state.
HILLARY CLINTON, Secretary of State-designate: America is a place founded on the idea that everyone should have the right to live up to his or her God-given potential. And it is that same ideal that must guide America's purpose in the world today.
And while we are determined to defend our freedoms and liberties at all costs, we also reach out to the world again, seeking common cause and higher ground.
The selection of Robert Gates to stay on as secretary of defense marks the first time a Pentagon chief has been asked to serve a president of a different political party.
ROBERT GATES, Secretary of Defense: Mindful that we are engaged in two wars and face other serious challenges at home and around the world, and with a profound sense of personal responsibility to and for our men and women in uniform and their families, I must do my duty as they do theirs. How could I do otherwise?
Also in the president-elect's cabinet, his choice for attorney general, Eric Holder, served as deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration.
For homeland security secretary, border state Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona.
To be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. She was an adviser to Mr. Obama during the campaign.
And his pick for national security adviser, retired Marine Gen. James Jones, who was NATO commander from 2003 to 2006.
Vice President-elect Joe Biden said Mr. Obama had assembled one of the most talented national security teams ever.
SEN. JOE BIDEN, Vice President-elect of the United States: Each member shares our conviction that strength and wisdom must go hand in hand. Each member believes as we do that America's security is not a partisan issue.
The president-elect then took questions from reporters, one about potential conflicts on the team.
You've selected a number of high-profile people for your national security team. How can you ensure that the staff that you are assembling is going to be a smoothly functioning team of rivals and not a clash of rivals?
They would not have agreed to join my administration and I would not have asked them to be part of this administration unless we shared a core vision of what's needed to keep the American people safe and to ensure prosperity here at home and peace abroad.
I assembled this team because I'm a strong believer in strong personalities and strong opinions. I think that's how the best decisions are made.
One of the dangers in a White House, based on my reading of history, is that you get wrapped up in group-think, and everybody agrees with everything, and there's no discussion and there are no dissenting views. So I'm going to be welcoming a vigorous debate inside the White House.
But, understand, I will be setting policy as president. I will be responsible for the vision that this team carries out, and I expect them to implement that vision once decisions are made.
Mr. Obama was also asked how he came to pick Clinton, given the barbs that were exchanged during the primary.
I'm wondering whether you could talk about the evolution of your views of her credentials since the spring.
Look, I mean, I think this is fun for the press to try to stir up whatever quotes were generated during the course of the campaign. No, I understand. And you're having fun. But — and there's nothing wrong with that. I mean, I'm not — I'm not faulting it.
But, look, I think if you look at the statements that Hillary Clinton and I have made outside of the heat of a campaign, we share a view that America has to be safe and secure. And in order to do that, we have to combine military power with strength and diplomacy. And we have to build and forge stronger alliances around the world so that we're not carrying the burdens and these challenges by ourselves.
I believe that there's no more effective advocate than Hillary Clinton for that well-rounded view of how we advance American interests.
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