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Obama's Choices For Cabinet Signal Change

This story was written by Matthew Tomlin, The Daily Vidette

In the past few weeks President-elect Obama has appointed several members of his cabinet, which is expected to be all but complete by the end of December.

Perhaps foremost among these appointments was the choice of his foreign policy advisor, Susan Rice, to be UN Ambassador, a position which Obama has reportedly planned to restore to the cabinet level, as it was under Clinton.

"By reinstating this as a cabinet level position, Obama is signaling to the global community that the U.S. is going to take international law more seriously, and that it's not going to act above international law all the time," Amentahru Wahlrab, Illinois State University professor of international politics, said.

Representing the United States at the United Nations, Rice, a stalwart proponent of more forceful action to prevent mass killings and genocide, such as in Darfur, will be one of the most visible United States' actors on the world stage, next to Hillary Clinton.

"It's a sign to the rest of the world that we're going to change; that we think the United Nations is important and obviously, that choice makes a number of people unhappy," Wahlrab said.

Rice is a Rhodes scholar who earned her doctorate in international politics from Oxford University. Becoming a member of President Clinton's National Security Council staff in 1993, she soon ascended to assistant secretary of state for African affairs.

As a member of Clinton's National Security Council, Rice was a witness to the aftermath of the atrocities during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. She was also central to the response of the 1998 Al Qaeda attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

On the economic side, Obama has chosen Timothy Geithner to replace Henry Paulson as Treasury Secretary. Obama and his economic team have begun working on economic initiatives to send to Congress in January, which are estimated to cost between $500 and $800 billion.

"[Obama's] economic team is pretty well respected in generalI think he's done well in terms of the quality of the people he's appointed in those positions," James Payne, chairperson of the Department of Economics, said.

Currently serving as president of the New York Federal Reserve, Geithner has actively approached solving the economic crisis and worked closely with Paulson on the measures taken to help lift the country out of recession, including the government bailout of insurer American International Group and the rescue of Citigroup.

"Given the situation I think it's important for [Obama] to have some people with experience who are well respected in the economic community," Payne said.

Other notable nominations include Obama's rival for the Democratic Presidential nomination Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Eric Holder, former Justice Department official, as Attorney General and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as Secretary of Commerce.

Obama has also announced that he will retain Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense.

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