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Eileen O’Connor: Bush team sifts through resumes

December 15, 2000
Web posted at: 3:54 p.m. EST (2054 GMT)

Eileen O'Connor
Eileen O'Connor  

CNN Correspondent Eileen O’Connor is in Washington covering the transition plans of President-elect George W. Bush.

Q: What are Bush aides working on during this transition phase?

O’CONNOR: Aides had a very long conference call Friday morning going over personnel and appointments. But they won’t say anything specific. There are lots of names jumping around. You’ve got Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, Michigan Gov. John Engler and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. All of them are Republican governors who the president-elect knows quite well. They are actually moderate conservatives, probably even more moderate than Bush is.

That is in line with what Republican strategists are saying: Bush needs to reach out to Democrats and moderate Republicans – people who can work on bipartisan legislation with Congress. Even the Republicans he picks, they can’t really be polarizing people. It’s not just about putting a few Democrats on the Cabinet. It’s also about the kind of Republicans they put on a Cabinet.

At the same time, aides say it’s a fine line, and they can’t alienate the conservative corps that elected Bush.

The transition would have been hard, but it’s been made harder because they now have less time and they have to find a more conciliatory Cabinet than they might have had to before this close election.

Bush will meet with Democratic leaders in the Senate and House while he’s in Washington next week. It will all be part of the reach-out-and-touch campaign.

Then, Bush will go back to Austin, Texas, for a Christmas party at the end of the week and he’ll then take off. He’s going to have personal downtime for the Christmas holidays.

Q: What’s the message behind the meeting between Bush and Sen. John Breaux (D-La.)?

O’CONNOR: They clearly want that to be the image of the day. They want the picture of Sen. Breaux and Bush together all over the place. The reason is for public relations. The Bush camp has to be seen as reaching out to Democrats. They want to make sure the talk of unity is seen as a reality.

Breaux may very well not take a job in the Cabinet because of the 50-50 split in the Senate. He’d be under political pressure from Democrats not to accept such a post. Breaux himself has said he likes what he does in the Senate. Because of his moderate Democratic stances, he may be a person both sides work through. So, for that reason, he might be in a better position in the Senate to push his policy proposals.

Breaux is not necessarily saying he will take a Cabinet job – and probably is leaning against it.

Q: Has the Bush camp reached out to African-Americans since the election?

O’CONNOR: The Congressional Black Caucus is looking for the Bush team to reach out. I asked one of Bush’s senior aides if that was going to happen when Bush is here in Washington, and he said, ‘We are going to find a way to reach out to the African-American community and those lawmakers who represent them.’

Jesse Jackson called the president-elect, and they had a good conversation, according to aides. The President-elect was disappointed with his vote in the African-American community. He really wanted at least 15 percent of their vote, and he got about 10 percent.

In this post-election time, there have been a lot of accusations from African-American leaders that the majority of disenfranchised voters were African-Americans. … In fact, Jesse Jackson talked to him about that and the president-elect said he would look into it, study it and if there were problems, get them fixed.


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Friday, December 15, 2000

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