Washington, Nov 13 : US President-elect Barack Obama is planning to appoint Republicans to key positions in his cabinet as part of a new bipartisan approach in Washington. The Telegraph quoted John Podesta, the head of Obama's 450-strong transition team as saying that the President-elect wanted to make genuine efforts to reach out across the parties.
Podesta said Republicans and independents would be in Obama's cabinet and at lower-level jobs at 'not just a token level.' The news came as Obama revealed he had asked two leading Democrat and a Republican figures to meet delegates on his behalf at the G20 financial summit in Washington at the weekend. Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State under Clinton, and Jim Leach, a former Republican congressman, will represent him during the talks.
Denis McDonough, a senior foreign policy adviser to Obama, said: "There is one President at a time in the United States, so the President-elect has asked Secretary Albright and Congressman Leach, an experienced and bipartisan team, to be available meet with and listen to our friends and allies on his behalf." Among the Republicans under consideration for senior posts in the cabinet are Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, a possible Secretary of State, Colin Powell, being looked at for Pentagon chief or Education Secretary, and Robert Gates, who could be kept on at the Pentagon.
Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a Vietnam veteran who has lambasted President George W. Bush for his conduct of the Iraq war, is also a possible Republican in the 14-member cabinet.
Presidents traditionally appoint one member of the opposing party to their cabinet. Bush kept on Norman Mineta, Clinton's Transport Secretary, while Clinton gave William Cohen, a Republican former Maine senator, the job of Pentagon secretary.
The last president to have truly bipartisan cabinet was John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, who appointed Douglas Dillon, a Republican, as his Treasury secretary, and Robert McNamara, an independent, as Pentagon chief. The cabinet was just 10 strong at that time.
Most presidents select a token member of the other party and often one who is ideologically at odds with their party colleagues.
President Richard Nixon appointed John Connally, a conservative Democrat, as his Treasury Secretary in 1971 while President Ronald Reagan picked the neo-conservative Jeanne Kirkpatrick as his United Nations ambassador, a cabinet-level job.
A week before he defeated John McCain to become the first black president of the United States, Obama told ABC News that he would include Republicans when dealing with issues such as energy independence, health care reform and education.