All the President's women to the fore

A PARADE of the more dynamic women from the liberal side of American public life - chief among them Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - are in the spotlight as President Barack Obama juggles key appointments for his second term.

Mrs Clinton has long said she would clear her desk by Inauguration Day, January 20, or within days of Mr Obama's swearing-in.

But because of her husband's high-octane role in the Obama re-election campaign, Washington insiders are reluctant to accept Mrs Clinton's rejection of speculation that she merely wants a break before campaigning to succeed Mr Obama in the Oval Office in 2016. This has prompted a new line of speculation: she might stay on a bit longer, with a view to finishing as Secretary of State on a higher note than the ongoing ruckus over the September 11 death of the US ambassador to Libya in a terror attack in Benghazi.

The same issue might also be dimming the prospects of the woman deemed most likely to succeed Mrs Clinton at Foggy Bottom, as the State Department's bunkers in Washington are known. That would be Susan Rice, US ambassador to the United Nations, who is under a cloud for her role as an administration spokeswoman on the murky Benghazi affair.

Dr Rice has also been touted as a new national security adviser.

Also in cabinet contention is Suzanne Nora Johnson, formerly vice-chairwoman of Goldman Sachs, to replace outgoing Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

Janet Yellen, vice-chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, is in a field of contenders to replace Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, whose term expires in less than a year.

And Michele Flournoy, formerly an Obama under-secretary for defence, is cited as a possible successor to Defence Secretary Leon Panetta.

Already in the cabinet, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is reportedly eager to succeed Attorney-General Eric Holder, though there is still speculation on the timing of Mr Holder's likely resignation.

The name of outgoing Republican senator Olympia Snowe, a moderate, is canvassed not for a particular portfolio so much as how her political hue would be a gesture of bipartisanship by a Democratic White House.

Among the men being named in a cabinet reorganisation that could result in as many as half of Mr Obama's executive team being replaced are:

■John Kerry, head of the Senate foreign relations committee, as secretary of state, though vacating his Senate seat is a potential hurdle because of the opening it might create for a Republican.

■Jacob Lew, White House chief of staff and a former budget director, and Roger Ferguson, former vice-chairman of the Fed's board of governors, as treasury secretary.

Mr Geithner and Mr Panetta are seen as critical players in resolving Washington's looming ''fiscal cliff'' crisis - and neither is expected to resign before its resolution.

Another prominent adviser who reportedly wants to move on is Obama confidant David Plouffe.

Most intriguing of all was Mr Obama's election-night mention of a wish to sit down in the coming days with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to discuss how they might work together.

This story All the President's women to the fore first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.