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2008 Year in Review

News of the Nation

News of the nation in 2008 from the financial crisis to the presidential election


Barack Obama

Barack Obama

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Historic Presidential Election
| Democrats Gain Seats in Congress | Financial Crisis Hits Hard

Obama Assembles a Centrist Administration

Just days after being elected president, Barack Obama began assembling his cabinet. Faced with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, an unpopular war in Iraq, and a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, he selected appointees known for their experience and resolve. Most were considered centrists, leaving many liberals wondering when and if their ilk would be represented in the White House.

Obama's picks for his national security team illustrate the centrist slant. For the first time in history, a sitting secretary of defense, Robert Gates will remain in the position under a new administration. Obama selected former rival Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Clinton, Gates, and his choice for national security advisor, Gen. James Jones, all supported the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq in 2003. Obama, however, has an established record of dissent in the implementation and execution of the war.

Economic Team

On the economic front, Obama plucked Timothy Geithner, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, as treasury secretary, and Lawrence Summers, former treasury secretary, as director of the National Economic Council. The two men are both alums of the Clinton administration who earned praise for their handling of the woes during the 1990s, including the Asian financial crisis and the failure of Long Term Capital Management, a hedge fund. Both, however, have been involved in policy decisions that contributed to the current crisis. As treasury secretary under President Clinton, Summers backed a law that deregulated derivatives, a move that ultimately led to unfettered lending, which contributed to the current situation. In his current position, Geithner had a hand in formulating President Bush's response to the financial meltdown.

Obama's other nominees, as of December 17, include: Eric Holder, Jr., attorney general; former South Dakota senator Tom Daschle, secretary of health and human services; New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, secretary of commerce; Arizona governor Janet Napolitano, secretary of homeland security; Gen. Eric Shinseki, secretary of veterans affairs; Shaun Donovan, secretary of housing and urban development; Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu, secretary of energy; Arne Duncan, secretary of education; former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture, and Colorado senator Ken Salazar, secretary of the interior.

For biographies of Obama cabinet nominees:

Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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The worst fire in American history took place in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, in 1871.

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