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The call summoning him was somewhat cryptic. Only after Gen. James L. Jones showed up in a hotel suite for a one-on-one meeting with Barack Obama did it become clear what was going on.

Would General Jones be interested in a senior national security job? Obama asked. General Jones said he would be.

That was Oct. 22, a full 13 days before the election. This week, the two appeared together here as the president-elect announced that he was appointing Jones as his national security adviser.

Obama is moving more quickly to fill his administration’s top ranks than any newly elected president in modern times. He has named virtually the entire top echelon of his White House staff and nearly half of his Cabinet. Just a month after his election, Obama has announced his selections for 13 of the 24 most important positions in a new administration.

By comparison, Bill Clinton had filled only one job in the top echelon a month into his transition, and Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan only two. Even the elder George Bush, who had the advantage of succeeding a fellow Republican, had picked just eight a month after his election. George W. Bush, stalled by the Florida recount, had named a chief of staff at this point in 2000 but was waiting to find out if he would even become president.

Obama’s advisers are acutely aware that moving too quickly can cause mistakes. But accounts of the process emerging from participants suggest that the president-elect is trying to be decisive as well as methodical and secretive in filling out his administration, perhaps foreshadowing how he intends to run the government.

“You don’t have time to waste,” said Rahm Emanuel, the incoming White House chief of staff, who was named to his post two days after the election. “This is the worst economic situation since the Great Depression and the largest commitment of troops overseas since Richard Nixon. That’s the world we’re inheriting, and the president-elect said we don’t have a moment to waste putting things together.”

By comparison, Bill Clinton had filled only one job in the top echelon a month into his transition, and Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan only two. Even the elder George Bush, who had the advantage of succeeding a fellow Republican, had picked just eight a month after his election.