Obama Advisers Signal Republican Roles in New Administration

November 10, 2008 at 1:23 am Leave a comment

valerie-jarrett-2.jpgTop advisers to Barack Obama sent a strong message yesterday that
Republicans will play a vital role in his administration, even as
looming questions over healthcare and the economy are poised to stir
partisan debate – and debate within the Democratic party – about the
best way forward.

Valerie Jarrett, a longtime friend to Obama who is cochairwoman of
his transition team, suggested that Obama intends to appoint
Republicans to his cabinet or other important posts and does not rule
out keeping on Defense Secretary Robert Gates when he takes power in
January.

“He thinks he’ll make better decisions if he’s pushed
hard by people with perspectives that are wide and broad,” Jarrett said
on CBS’s “Face the Nation” yesterday, in a response to a question about
speculation that Obama will appoint Republicans to cabinet-level
positions. “It is important to him to have that kind of breadth at the
table.”

In response to a question about whether Gates could be
asked to stay on in Obama’s administration, Jarrett said: “I wouldn’t
rule out anything. As I said, I think President-elect Obama has an open
mind.”

Meanwhile, Rahm Emanuel, a representative from Illinois
who will serve as Obama’s White House chief of staff, told ABC’s “This
Week” that John McCain, Obama’s Republican rival, “will be a partner”
in the next administration.

Emanuel said Obama and McCain had a constructive phone call Tuesday night in which Obama asked McCain to play a role.

“They
are going to be talking about a series of things, not only
domestically, but internationally,” Emanuel said. “There will be a lot
of places to work together.”

John D. Podesta, the other
cochairman of Obama’s transition team, praised the cooperation he has
received from the Bush White House on CNN’s “Late Edition,” noting that
he and White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten have signed a
memorandum of understanding that will allow Obama aides to enter
federal agencies as early as this week.

In a separate interview
on “Fox News Sunday,” Podesta said Republicans will have more than a
token representation in the new administration.

But despite the
conciliatory tone, significant initiatives on healthcare and the
economy are poised to stir intense disagreements after Obama takes
office.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, in an op-ed article in yesterday’s Washington Post, urged swift action on healthcare legislation despite the economic downturn.

“I’m
sure opponents will dust off the same old slogans they have used to try
to block every major advance in healthcare,” the Massachusetts Democrat
and chairman of the Health, Education, and Labor Committee, wrote.
“They will call it ‘socialized medicine’ and a ‘government takeover,’
just as they did when they opposed Medicare and the children’s health
program – and they are just as wrong today as they were then.”

He
said that although it will be costly, the nation cannot afford to wait
to make coverage more affordable for low-income families and improve
access to those who are currently uninsured, much like reforms adopted
in Massachusetts achieved in 2006.

Obama’s aides said yesterday
that he supports an emergency package that will increase unemployment
insurance and help states expand healthcare for the insured.

Obama
himself indicated in a radio address Saturday that he will not wait
long to tackle some of the most difficult and potentially divisive
issues.

“We can’t afford to wait on moving forward on the key
priorities that I identified during the campaign including clean
energy, healthcare, education, and tax relief for middle class
families,” he said.

Source: Boston Globe

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