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Bush Cabinet to take shape in coming days

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In an effort to move past the divisive and contested presidential campaign, President-elect George W. Bush is expected to move quickly to name a Cabinet which will likely include a mix of new faces and Republican administration veterans.

President-elect George W. Bush  

"Whether you voted for me or not, I will do my best to serve your interests, and I will work to earn your respect," Bush said Wednesday night in a televised acceptance speech from Austin.

With those aims in mind, Bush is expected to announce his first Cabinet appointees within the next week. The first slots filled will likely be those concerned with international affairs and defense -- intended as a signal that the disputed November 7 election will not result in a disruption of U.S. international policy.

Bush has made little secret of his intention to give top administration billing to Colin Powell, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents Bush and Clinton.

Powell, a featured speaker at the 1996 and 2000 Republican conventions who often accompanied Bush on this year's campaign trail, retired from the army in 1993 and has been serving on the board of several nonprofit organizations since then.

He is all-but-certain to be the nation's first African-American secretary of state. Bush will likely make the official announcement after he meets Tuesday with President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore in Washington.

There are a number of other international policy advisers -- many of whom served his father and former President Reagan -- Bush has to choose from for the positions of national security advisor and secretary of defense.

Condoleezza Rice  

The national security position is expected to go to Condoleezza Rice, a Stanford scholar who served as an expert on Soviet affairs during the Reagan and Bush administrations. Rice, another African-American featured at this year's GOP convention, has been Bush's top international policy advisor for the past two years.

Former Bush administration Transportation Secretary Andrew Card has already been tapped to become chief of staff of the new White House. Card is the same age as the president-elect and was one of former President Bush's earliest supporters during the his first bid for presidency in 1980.

Card will likely oversee the influx of new Republican faces at the White House, most of whom have served as members of the Texas governor's inner circle for the past six years. It is widely believed that Bush campaign chief strategist Karl Rove will remain Bush's top political advisor, either on the White House staff or with the Republican National Committee.

Another member of the Texas governor's "iron triangle" of advisors, senior communications director Karen Hughes, is likely to retain a similar post in the Bush White House. And Bush campaign and transition spokesman Ari Fleischer is all-but-certain to be named as White House press secretary.

Another longtime Bush friend, Don Evans, is believed to be the next secretary of Commerce -- if he wants the job.

Conservatives likely to voice Cabinet objections

A number of names have been mentioned in recent weeks for defense secretary, among them former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, and Republicans Paul Wolfowitz, who served in the Reagan administration, former Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.

Nunn has publicly said he's not interested in the job, while a number of conservative Republicans have voiced opposition to Ridge, mainly over the Republican governor's support of abortion rights.

Gov. Tom Ridge  

Ridge, a close friend of Bush, is a former member of Congress and served in the infantry in Vietnam. He is reportedly viewed viewed by some -- such as Powell -- as ideal for representing Bush with Congress and the military rank-and-file in promoting Pentagon reforms.

A number of conservatives are lobbying Vice President-elect Dick Cheney, who is heading Bush's transition planning and is himself a former Pentagon chief, to push for the appointment of Wolfowitz.

Wolfowitz served in the Reagan State Department and as Cheney's undersecretary of Defense during the Bush administration. Currently the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, he also been mentioned as a potential director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

A number of lawmakers have also voiced a preference for Coats, a respected social conservative with military expertise who served on the Senate Armed Service Committee. However, most members of the political right will be watching Bush's selections for attorney general and health and human services secretary.

Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor, has long been a conservative favorite for the top spot at the Justice Department. But outgoing Montana Gov. Mark Racicot, who emerged as a prominent spokesman on the Bush campaign's behalf during the Florida electoral dispute, has also emerged as a contender for the post.

Democrats under consideration for domestic posts

Sen. John Breaux  

Bush is most likely to appoint a Democrat to a domestic policy position in his Cabinet, as part as an effort an to try to heal the political wounds of an achingly close election. Sen. John Breaux, D-Louisiana, has already confirmed that representatives of Bush's transition team have contacted him about the possibility of serving as secretary of energy.

Breaux said he would consider the Cabinet post, but also said he thought he "could be more useful to Bush in the Senate than the Cabinet." Another top Democrat, Gov. Jim Hunt of North Carolina, has been mentioned as a a possible choice for education secretary. But his selection could also well spark opposition from conservatives, particularly those who have called for department to be abolished.

Two southern Democratic congressman have been mentioned as possible appointees as agriculture secretary: Rep. Robert "Bud" Cramer of Alabama and Rep. Charles Stenholm of Texas, a charter member of the conservative "Blue Dog" coalition of House Democrats.


Thursday, December 14, 2000



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