AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM/Newscom
Obama unveiled his choice of former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack to head the Agriculture Department and Colorado Senator Ken Salazar to run the Interior Department on the same day Time Magazine unsurprisingly named the president-elect as its person of the year.
Both nominees have reputations as political centrists.
Cabinet building before Christmas
The announcements came at a press conference in Chicago’s Drake Hotel. It was Obama’s third meeting with the media in as many days, as the president-elect moves to complete his cabinet before an expected departure this weekend for a family Christmas vacation in Hawaii.
In response to a reporter’s question about Salazar’s role, Obama said the country “had an Interior Department that was deeply troubled” adding it was “too often seen as an appendage of commercial interests.” The Interior Department oversees oil and gas drilling on public lands and manages the nation’s parks and wildlife refuges.
“I want an Interior Department that very frankly cleans up its act,” Obama continued. In the recent past there was “not enough emphasis on what’s good for the American people,” he charged.
A frustrating silence
A reporter asked the president-elect about a request by the US Attorney’s office in Chicago to postpone release of an internal investigation of contacts between the Obama transition team and Illinois Governor Rod Blagovejich. and how that squared with his promise of governmental transparency. The governor has been charged with trying to profit from his ability to fill the US Senate seat Obama held.