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John King: Bush Cabinet choices reflect preference for chief executives

John King
John King  

Senior White House Correspondent John King recaps the Friday developments in Washington as President-elect George W. Bush announced four new nominees to his Cabinet.

Q: Will Bush's choice of Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson as health and human services secretary draw heavy opposition from liberals in Congress opposed to his antiabortion stance?

KING: Already there is some criticism from Planned Parenthood that he is a very longtime outspoken critic of abortion. But he also made the point today during his public appearance that he listens to everyone.

But President-elect Bush owed Tommy Thompson, if you will. If you go back to the Republican platform committee meetings at the convention, which Gov. Thompson chaired, it was a very smooth process this time. That has been a minefield for past Republican nominees, because of fights over abortion and other social issues.

Planned Parenthood and NARAL (the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) will criticize this nomination. But he has been governor for 14 years and had built a pretty good bipartisan record with his fellow governors. Among the people on the record praising Gov. Thompson quite openly and quite profusely on occasion has been President Bill Clinton, who worked with him when he was governor of Arkansas.

Q: How about the selection of former Colorado attorney general Gale Norton as secretary of interior? Bit of a surprise choice on Bush's part?

KING: These guys are pretty good at keeping a secret and the names being kicked around in Washington aren't always the ones on the top of their list.

I think next to Sen. (John) Ashcroft as attorney general, she is the most controversial pick so far. The environmental groups are outraged. When she was attorney general she was on the record being sharply critical of the EPA and the Interior Department under the Clinton administration.

We have a Texan as president. We have a man from Wyoming as vice president, and now we have a woman from Colorado. This is a very Western-oriented approach and she reflects that. It's not only her support for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, it's a much more "Washington hands off" view that is typical of Westerners, especially western Republicans, when it comes to issues like land management.

She is likely to have a much different approach than Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt has had. She has been very critical of what she would call "land grabs" of the Clinton administration, designating more and more national lands to protect them. So, this is probably as about as much a 180-degree change as you can get.

Q: What types of characteristics do Bush's Cabinet appointees have in common?

KING: He has been picking people who for the most part have been chief executives. Whether it's Rod Paige, now superintendent of schools in Houston, as secretary of education or an attorney general at Interior. Ashcroft is from the Senate, but before than he was governor. EPA appointee Christie Whitman is a governor, Tommy Thompson is a a governor, Dick Cheney was a chief of staff and CEO at the corporate level.

These are people who are going to get things done. He's not picking legislators, he's picking executives. That's a reflection of who Bush is. I think it would have unlikely to pick many members from Congress even if the Republicans had a 435-0 majority in the House. It's just not his style.

Q:What Cabinet selections remain to be filled?

The big three are Labor, Energy and Transportation. You can add CIA director to the list to pretty much round it out. All indications from transition sources are that he will make these announcements next Wednesday or Thursday.


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Friday, December 29, 2000

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