Retired Maj. Gen. Jerry White, who commanded Fort Benning in the early '90s, said he's pleased with the national security team President-elect Barack Obama has built.
"I think he's done very well," said White, a Columbus resident. "First of all, he's the president-elect of the United States and he's selected some real experienced people. I'm very, very happy with the selection of the Secretary of Defense (Robert M.) Gates to stay on. There's no one I personally object to."
While another retired general, Bill Caldwell, echoed White's approval of Gates and supports retired four-star Marine Gen. James L. Jones as Obama's pick for national security advisor, he expressed concern over the president-elect’s selection of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, for secretary of state.
"I think he chose her because of the political support he'd get from that side of the party — to show his willingness to let bygones be bygones," said Caldwell, who also resides in Columbus. "I only ask you, what are her qualifications? She's not a Condoleezza Rice, that's for sure. Yeah, she was a first lady, but hey, you tell me how that qualifies you? She's a senator, but how does that qualify you to be a national security advisor?"
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Another former Fort Benning commander, retired Maj. Gen. Carmen Cavezza, also questioned Obama's inclusion of his one-time rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, especially coming on the heels of such an intense campaign. Both Cavezza and another former Fort Benning commanding general, retired Maj. Gen. Ken Leuer, said their doubts about Clinton and Obama's at-times sour political history do not outweigh their belief that the smart, assertive senator will be an asset to the future chief executive's security team.
Labels like "high-powered" and "strong-willed" have been used to describe Obama's diverse team, which includes Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as secretary of homeland security, Susan E. Rice as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder as attorney general. Reporters at last week's news conference announcing Obama's picks questioned whether combining such eclectic personalities would lead to robust arguments and clashes of opinion rather than create an adept, cooperative unit.
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