(AFP) – Nov 9, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Barack Obama is looking to reverse executive orders on oil drilling and stem cell research implemented by President George W. Bush, the president-elect's transition team said Sunday.
The move could signal a swift change of course after eight years under the Bush administration, even as top aides stressed Obama's bipartisan aims and predicted the new cabinet could contain familiar faces, particularly at the Pentagon.
Both the incoming Democrats and outgoing Republicans have largely struck a tone of civility, with economic woes and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan high on the list of priorities ahead of Obama's inauguration on January 20.
But as Obama prepared for handover talks at the White House Monday, his transition chief John Podesta signaled that Obama could wipe away some hallmarks of the Bush years, including a ban on embyronic stem cell research and moves to open new lands to oil drilling.
"I think across the board, on stem cell research, on a number of areas, you see the Bush administration, even today, moving aggressively to do things that I think are probably not in the interest of the country," Podesta told Fox.
"We're looking at -- again, in virtually every agency to see where we can move forward, whether that's on energy transformation, on improving health care, on stem cell research," he said.
Podesta, who also served as White House chief of staff under president Bill Clinton, said he would not "preview decisions that he (Obama) has yet to make."
However he pointed out that "as a candidate, Senator Obama said that he wanted all the Bush executive orders reviewed, and decide which ones should be kept, and which ones should be repealed, and which ones should be amended."
Among the measures that Podesta raised were the Bush administration's move to authorize oil and gas drilling in the western state of Utah, and embryonic stem cell research which Bush has limited because he views it as destruction of human life.
Obama is "a transformational figure, and I think he's going to transform the way government acts as we move forward," Podesta said.
Meanwhile the Democrat, who has already appointed a chief of staff and is mulling options for key posts in treasury and defense, is busily crafting a diverse cabinet, his transition team co-chair Valerie Jarrett said.
"Throughout the campaign, president-elect Obama has talked about the importance of bipartisanship," she told NBC.
"I'm confident his administration will include people from all perspectives," said Jarrett, a close aide to Obama who served as his Senate campaign finance director in 2004.
With the US military engaged on two fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan, a key question has been whether Obama would keep on Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
"I think everything is a possibility right now," Jarrett said when asked if the new administration would consider keeping Gates in his post.
Jarrett also defended Obama's pick of tough-talking Congressman Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, saying he brought political savvy to the incoming administration.
"No one can hit the ground running faster than Rahm Emanuel. He embraces president-elect Obama's philosophy. He's going to do an outstanding job," she said.
House minority leader John Boehner has assailed Emanuel as an "ironic choice for a president-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil, and govern from the center."
Bush's chief of staff Josh Bolten said the White House was also working hard to ensure a seamless transition.
"Because if a crisis hits on January 21, they're the ones who are going to have to deal with it. We need to make sure that they're as well prepared as possible," Bolten said on C-Span.
On Saturday, Bush applauded Obama's election victory as a "triumph" and said "he can count on my complete cooperation as he makes his transition to the White House."
But while the president and president-elect have taken the high road, partisanship has not entirely disappeared among lawmakers, as Democrats revel in the seats they snatched from Republicans in the House of Representatives and Senate in last week's election.
Asked whether he agreed with the notion of keeping Gates as defense secretary, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said on CNN: "Sure. I think we need a good transition there."
"Why wouldn't we want to keep him? He's never been a registered Republican," he added.
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