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Clinton Wrestles With Appointments, Scandals

By Wolf Blitzer/CNN


WASHINGTON (Dec. 3) -- Just as President Bill Clinton is trying to put together his new Cabinet, he is facing new political headaches, including some from old political allies.

Clinton is making clear he has absolutely no intention of calling off his close friend and former political adviser James Carville from attacking Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's integrity.

The president was asked today by a reporter in the Oval Office, "Mr. President, could you tell us how you feel about James Carville's efforts to mount an offensive on your behalf?" Clinton responded, "I have no comment." When he was asked, "You plan to talk to him about that?" Clinton said, "No."

His voice is still hoarse, but his "no comment" was firm and carefully considered. Aides concede it will be seen as tacit endorsement; Carville presumably would suspend his effort if asked to do so by the president. But Clinton has Decided, for now, not to ask.

Why? Aides say the president is bracing for bad news from Starr in the coming months: more indictments, including of people close to the president, possibly even the first lady. Carville's campaign is part of a preemptive strike, one designed to portray Starr as a bitter partisan.

James Carville

"We're going to go forth with this; we're going to take out newspaper ads, we're going to raise money," Carville said on NBC's "Meet The Press." "It's going to be a full-fledged thing," he said. "We're going to start recruiting young people on campuses. We're going to bring the truth about Kenneth Starr to the American people."

All this comes as Clinton is struggling with naming a new Cabinet. It's proving more difficult than earlier thought, in part, because of the enormous pressure he is under from women's groups to make sure women are offered high-level positions.

Kenneth Starr

"They've got strong views and strong desires and we hear them and listen to them and enjoy their counsel," said McCurry.

Political activist Lynn Cutler was among about 100 Democratic women who met with Vice President Al Gore last week.

"I have absolute faith in the sensibility of the administration of the need to continue to appoint women to high-level positions, continue the track record, even improve on it from the first term," Cutler said.

Behind the scenes, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is said to be among those lobbying for U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright to become the nation's top diplomat. And other women are also urging the president to make history by naming the first ever female secretary of state.

"Well, it's no surprise that the coalition for women's appointments, of which our organization is a part, is supporting Madeleine Albright wholeheartedly," said Anita Perez Ferguson of the National Women's Political Caucus.

On top of these headaches, the president also faces almost daily embarrassing revelations over improper Democratic Party fund-raising activities, headaches that are likely to turn into migraines when Congress is back in session.

This story originally appeared on CNN's "Inside Politics."

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