Obama appoints four more

Labor and Transportation secretaries, U.S. Trade Rep, Small Business Administrator.

Published December 19, 2008 7:49PM (EST)

At a just-completed press conference, Barack Obama rolled out four new appointments:

  • California congresswoman Hilda Solis for Secretary of Labor
  • Illinois congressman Ray LaHood for Secretary of Transportation
  • Former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk for Federal Trade Representative
  • Venture capitalist Karen Mills as administrator of the Small Business Administration

In his opening remarks Obama said:

“I know we will be headed in the right direction again when we are creating jobs, instead of losing them, and when Americans are gaining ground in terms of their incomes, instead of treading water or falling behind. The appointees announced today will play an integral role in our efforts to turn our economy around. Daunting as the challenges we are inheriting may be, I’m convinced that our team and the American people are prepared to meet them.”

But perhaps his best quote came in announcing Solis: "For the past eight years, the Department of Labor has not lived up to its role, either as an advocate for hardworking families or as an arbiter of fairness in relations between labor and management. That will change when Hilda Solis is Secretary of Labor. Under her leadership, I'm confident of that the Department of Labor will once again stand up for working families," said Obama. For her part, Solis spoke of her support for unions and labor laws, and for promoting a green economy.

LaHood, a Republican, thanked Obama for "his confidence in me and his commitment to working across party lines for our country. . . His agenda for the Department of Transportation is my agenda for the Department of Transportation.

Asked in the first question if an "auto czar" is needed, Obama spoke about how the first request from the automakers was a blank check that Congress rejected. But he also pledged that he wants some of those 2.5 million new jobs he's touting to be auto industry jobs.

Responding to the third and final question, about the size of the massive federal spending package under discussion, Obama spoke about being smart with the sums, adding that he is a taxpayer too and doesn't like to see waste. "Every dollar that we spend we want to spend not because of politics but because it's good for the American people. If we build a road it better not be a road to nowhere." Oh, snap!

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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