Obama's new team: three top US jobs could go to women

Susan Rice heads the list of three strong female candidates for top jobs in President's second term

LAST UPDATED AT 12:27 ON Thu 29 Nov 2012

AN AWKWARD remark about being shown "binders full of women" candidates for jobs may have helped Mitt Romney lose the race to the White House but it seems President Barack Obama could now be facing a similar abundance.

For the first time, there are strong female candidates simultaneously for three top cabinet positions - heading the State, Treasury and Defence departments.

Foremost is Susan Rice, who is campaigning hard to become the next Secretary of State – the US version of Foreign Secretary.

Then there is Michele Flournoy, a strong contender to be America's first female Defence Secretary. Lael Brainard is a longer shot to replace her boss at the Treasury – but she does have a chance.

Writing for The Daily Beast, Eleanor Clift says Obama may be unlikely to pick all three. But, by the same token, he seems certain to try to keep his second-term cabinet at least as female as his first.

Rice (above), currently US ambassador to the UN, is a strong candidate to replace Hillary Clinton for Obama's second term. No relation of Republican Defence Secretary Condoleeza Rice, her father was the first black governor of the Federal Reserve.

A Rhodes scholar, she has risen through the Democrat ranks over the years and at just 48 is a serious contender. There is one problem: intense opposition from a coterie of Republicans who accuse her of lying about the nature of the recent attack on the US embassy in Benghazi.

Rice went to meet her critics face-to-face on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, apologising for her failure to quickly make clear that the attack was pre-planned terrorism, not, as she at first said, "opportunistic" and spontaneous.

But according to the Washington Post, her Republican critics, including Senator John McCain, were not convinced by the explanation. "I'm more disturbed now than I was before," said Senator Lindsey O. Graham.

Flournoy may have to wait a little longer to get her top job: incumbent Leon Panetta is not expected to leave office as soon as Clinton. There may also be concerns that she is not ready: last year she announced she was stepping down from the demanding job of under secretary for defence to deal with the pressures of a young family.

But Flournoy is on the short list – and has what it takes to get the job, either now or later. She studied at Harvard and Oxford, followed by the Kennedy School and the Army War College.

Speaking in 2009, Flournoy sounded an un-hawkish note, telling army officers: "We have to stop invoking American exceptionalism and return to our historical role as champion of the rule of law both domestically and internationally." · 

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