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Kelly Wallace on Bush's trip to Washington

Wallace
CNN's Kelly Wallace  

White House Correspondent Kelly Wallace is following President-elect George W. Bush from Austin, Texas, as he forms his administration

Q: What is Bush's agenda on his Washington visit?

WALLACE: He will meet with key congressional leaders when he heads to Capitol Hill on Monday. He is likely to hear Democratic concerns about his $1.3 trillion tax cut. Mr. Bush told reporters Sunday he has no plans to abandon that tax cut despite objections from the other party.

And during this first Washington visit as president-elect, Bush will discuss the economy Monday with Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan. On Tuesday he will meet with his former campaign rival, Al Gore, and with the man who defeated his father eight years ago, President Clinton.

Q: Were Bush's appointments on Sunday a surprise?

WALLACE: These announcements were not really a surprise. But they were in line with his goal of putting together a diverse Cabinet. When he was asked during the news conference if there was another message behind Sunday's appointments of minorities and women, Bush replied, "You bet, that people who work hard and make the right decisions in life can achieve anything they want in America."

But that being said, this administration certainly wants to appeal to minorities who overwhelmingly voted for Al Gore. It also wants to show he will govern in a bipartisan way after the post-election battle that left Bush winning the Electoral College but losing the popular vote.

Q: Condoleezza Rice talks about making America's military strong again, but she has no military background. Is that unusual for a national security adviser?

WALLACE: Not exactly. If you look at the Clinton administration, Clinton chose Sandy Berger and Anthony Lake. I don't believe either had any military experience.

As to her experience, that is going to be an issue. Rice even describes herself as a Europeanist. She has extensive experience in Russia, and the countries that make up the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, but she does not have as much experience when it comes to Asia and tensions with countries such as Iraq and Iran.

However, she will be working with other members of the international policy team, including retired Gen. Colin Powell, who of course has extensive experience, particularly with counties such as Iraq. There's no question she will face some new challenges, but she did serve as Bush's top international adviser throughout the campaign. He goes to her first for any questions on international affairs. So he trusts her judgment and clearly believes she is the right person for the job.

Q: Karen Hughes has been so effective as spokeswoman. Why is she being shifted to a background position?

WALLACE: While she will no longer be working with the press in a day-to-day capacity, she is going to continue doing what she has done throughout the campaign, and that is serve as one of Bush's top advisers. She is one of three advisers he relied on most during the presidential campaign. Hughes, campaign strategist Karl Rove and campaign manager Joe Allbaugh were referred to by reporters as the "iron triangle."

Again, Bush relies on her enormously, and he trusts her, so he has placed her in a position where she will exclusively work in an advisory capacity, leaving press relations to other people who have yet to be announced.

Q: What will Alberto R. Gonzales be doing as White House counsel?

WALLACE: He basically advises the president on all matters relating to the law. This office would focus on matters such as requests for presidential clemency. He would also be liaison to the Justice Department for any investigations that are conducted involving administration officials.

Gonzales has worked in the same capacity for Bush during his first term as governor of Texas. He is another long-time loyalist. Bush appointed him to be Texas secretary of state and later appointed him to the Texas Supreme Court. The president-elect is clearly going to someone he knows well and trusts for this position.


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Sunday, December 17, 2000

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