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Lisa Millar with an update on Obama's transit -

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Lisa Millar with an update on Obama's transition

Broadcast: 06/11/2008


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: And Lisa Millar joins me from Washington.

Lisa, Barack Obama is organising his transition to office as you mention in your story.

Do we have any idea yet who are the people who'll be taking the senior posts in his administration?

LISA MILLAR, ABC CORRESPONDENT: No Leigh, but you can imagine in Washington there's a whole lot of
gossip going on and suggestions being passed around.

Two of the appointments we are pretty sure about; one, Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff. He hasn't
yet accepted that position, but most Democrats think he will.

And the other is John Podesta, who's going to head up the transition team. Now, why the two of
those are both important, they're veterans from the Clinton era; both of them worked in the White

And people have already jumped on it and said 'Oh, here we go, Barack Obama promised change and a
fresh bipartisan approach and his first two appointments are Clinton veterans'.

But everyone in Washington will tell you that the transition period can bring you down if you don't
handle it properly. It was not done well for Bill Clinton when he first went into the White House,
and Barack Obama doesn't want to make that same mistake again.

We've also had a little bit of... a few suggestions about who might be Secretary of State. Dick
Lugar has been put up as a possible.

But also John Kerry; of course, this whole ride for Barack Obama started in 2004 at the Democratic
convention, when John Kerry was standing for president, unsuccessfully.

And some suggested that the fact that he opened the stage to Barack Obama might be worthy of
getting the Secretary of State position in this new administration.

LEIGH SALES: There are some suggestions as well that he may retain the current Defence Secretary
Robert Gates.

And you mentioned people are criticising Obama for undermining his change message with those
Clinton era appointees. Wouldn't keeping Robert Gates be some of the same?

LISA MILLAR: Well no, they've also suggested perhaps that he'll have two Republicans in his
Cabinet. And the thing about Robert Gates is that most Democrats think he's done a pretty good job.

The surge of troops into Iraq is generally regarded as having worked and after the tumultuous era
of Donald Rumsfeld most think having continuity and keeping Robert Gates in the job may be a good

Also, Barack Obama's policy is to withdraw troops from Iraq, not hastily, but that is the policy;
he wants them out. So surely having someone with experience there is probably better than throwing
in a newbie into the job.

LEIGH SALES: This is a huge moment for America having its first black president, but let's face it,
the mere election of a black man doesn't end black disadvantage in America.

How will Obama's election make a practical difference to the lives of African Americans?

LISA MILLAR: This is such a huge issue because there are so many expectations.

Last Friday on Lateline, we spoke to an old civil rights fighter who said that it's all about
education and he wants to see coalitions brought together, and perhaps that having an African
American in the White House will... they'll get a better ear for some of their ideas.

But Barack Obama, himself, has always hammered the education issue, and has wanted $10 billion put
into the system immediately to try to improve it.

He's also talked over the last couple of years through this campaign about the perils of welfare,
and of missing fathers in African American communities.

Look, I think at the moment it is the symbol; it's having someone... a role model in the White
House that is going to be the first practical start to this change for the African American

But I think education is going to be where Barack Obama sees his greatest ability to change... to
change what their lives are here.

LEIGH SALES: Lisa, we were both correspondents in America together for the 2004 election campaign,
and I remember us both saying at the time, 'Wow, I can't imagine covering a more exciting political
event than this.' We were so wrong, weren't we?

LISA MILLAR: Well, we were. We were thrilled to be covering an election campaign, and here I cannot
believe that this one has just been so absolutely thrilling.

I tried to get a newspaper yesterday to bring home as a souvenir, but they've all completely sold

I mean, when I heard hundreds of people had rushed down to the White House just to be outside the
fences on the night that the election was called, you get a real sense of the thrill that is going
through this city at the moment, and through this country.

And Leigh, you know that it's pretty hard to get a smile out of some people in Washington
sometimes, but the memory that I'll bring back to Australia with me is that I could not find anyone
without a smile on the streets of Washington yesterday.

LEIGH SALES: Oh, well that's good to hear. Lisa Millar thank you very much.