Washington Extra – Changing hats

April 28, 2011

The national security musical chairs was made official today by President Barack Obama.

On stage was a daisy-chain of Washington insiders who have worn many hats over the years and criss-crossed different administrations. They all report to Commander-in-Chief Obama, who by comparison appeared a relative newcomer.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former senator and first lady, was there to welcome back into the fold Ryan Crocker, who was chosen to be ambassador to Afghanistan.

Crocker, a former ambassador to Iraq, had worked closely with General David Petraeus, who was nominated to be CIA director to replace Leon Panetta.

Panetta — a former congressman, White House chief of staff, and director of the Office of Management and Budget — was chosen for Secretary of Defense to replace Robert Gates, a former CIA director.

“Given the pivotal period that we’re entering, I felt that it was absolutely critical that we had this team in place,” Obama said.

If everyone remembers which building to go to on the first day of work, it’ll be a good start.

Here are our top stories from Washington…


U.S. economic growth slows, inflation surges

Economic growth braked sharply in the first quarter as higher food and gasoline prices dampened consumer spending and sent inflation rising at its fastest pace in 2-1/2 years. With much of the pull back traced back to sharp cuts in defense spending and harsh winter weather, analysts were hopeful the economy would regain speed in the second quarter.

For more of this story by Lucia Mutikani, read here.

Low-key regulator in line to take on Wall Street titans

The world of bank regulation is not known for flamboyance, but even in this beige universe Martin Gruenberg has a decidedly low-key public manner. The current No. 2 man at the FDIC — and a strong contender to take over from Chairman Sheila Bair — speaks at a volume just north of a whisper at board meetings. Those who have worked with him say he is quiet behind the scenes as well. They warn, however, not to mistake his low-key style for a lack of strong beliefs, which include a firm approach to reining in risky bank practices.

For more of this newsmaker profile by Dave Clarke, read here.

Obama unveils shakeup of national security team

President Barack Obama announced a national security reshuffle, altering the chemistry of a team that will help set strategy on the war in Afghanistan, turmoil in the Middle East and defense budget battles in Washington. The appointments mark the biggest realignment of Obama’s war council to date and could have broad implications for his administration’s plans to start withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan in July and to seek deeper Pentagon spending cuts.

For more of this story by Matt Spetalnick, read here.

Palestinian unity deal puts U.S. funding in question

The new Palestinian unity deal could imperil hundreds of millions of dollars in aid if it gives a more prominent role to Hamas, the Islamist group that has spurned demands to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist. After Hamas and the Western-backed Fatah party announced their reconciliation, lawmakers in Washington warned funding could not flow to a government that includes a group still on the list of foreign terrorist organizations.

For more of this story by Andrew Quinn, read here.


US nuclear regulator scrutinizes back-up power plans

One day after deadly tornadoes knocked out power to nuclear reactors in Alabama, the head of the nuclear regulator expressed concern whether backup batteries have the staying power in a prolonged emergency.

For more of this story by Roberta Rampton and Ayesha Rascoe, read here.


Kirk: don’t give up on Doha trade talks

Countries should give another push to finish global trade negotiations despite wide differences that have raised fears that the 10-year-old Doha round is dead, the top trade official said. “It is not the time to start assessing blame. I also don’t believe it’s the time to give up,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said.

For more of this story by Doug Palmer, read here.


US proposes advertisers ditch junk food for kids

The government pressured food companies to cut back on aggressive advertising of junk food to kids, saying it contributes to a serious health crisis facing young Americans. The administration issued proposed voluntary principles which would call for advertisements to be for foods that “make a meaningful contribution to a healthful diet” and minimize ingredients that could have a negative impact on weight and health.

For more of this story by Diane Bartz, read here.


What we are blogging…


Could Petraeus be too shiny for the CIA?

An agency all about cloak-and-dagger tends to be wary of the limelight. So President Obama’s choice of General David Petraeus for CIA director has raised some questions in intelligence and military circles. How will a four-star general who has repeatedly been the subject of speculation as a possible future presidential candidate, and who doesn’t shy from the media spotlight, run an agency that prefers to stick to the shadows?

For Tabassum Zakaria’s full post, click here.


From elsewhere…

Royal wedding apathy matches passion in Britain

For every Briton who will tune in to watch Friday’s royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, one definitely will not. That was the finding of a recent poll which underlines how, for all the international media hoopla surrounding the big occasion, the appeal of a rare show of royal pomp and pageantry is far from universal.

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credits: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama and his picks for shuffled national security team), Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett (Curator poses with collection of hats worn by Queen Elizabeth, July 23, 2010)

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With this game of musical chairs this is just another example of that change we were supposed to believe in.

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