• unprecedented financial rescue schemes and their hoped-for impact on accelerating the economy from recession to prosperity;
  • urgent claims from election-helpful constituencies, especially labour unions and plaintiff’s bar, seeking federal intervention to improve their positions quickly while the president’s political capital is strong;
  • national security and climate change advocates who find common purpose in game-changing energy technologies and the investments and regulations needed to accelerate their implementation; and
  • international and bilateral trade arrangements, with conflicting domestic pressures in terms of costs and benefits.

Perhaps considering lessons learned from past transitions, Barack Obama moved quickly to name key members of his staff. While familiar to Washington insiders, most are not well known. These selections were followed by announced (and leaked) names of proposed cabinet members, each with resumés of achievement in public life, academia or commerce. Fast-changing circumstances and increasing interconnectedness call for holistic thinking and deciding. Even a president addicted to virtual communications technologies will likely find his staff’s physical proximity to him and to each other is fundamental to ensuring that in the ‘war of the parts against the whole’, the whole gets ample attention. Alternatively, cabinet officer behaviour has often led to a perception that after a few months on the job, many become captives of the special interest groups and career bureaucracies that are their departments’ concerns.

To gauge which choices might be paramount in the first 100 days, investors into and from the US might do well to listen closely to the president’s first-named appointees.

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Daniel Malachuk works with business and government leaders on global direct investment strategies. He has advised many of the world’s leading companies and served in the public sector as director of White House operations.

E-mail:daniel.malachuk@gmail.com