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What Kind of Message Is the Bush Campaign Sending Through Cabinet Appointments?

Aired December 19, 2000 - 4:07 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us from Washington this hour, Amy Walter of "The Cook Political Report."

Amy, let's talk first about this notion of the appointments that Mr. Bush is making, or the nominations that he's making for people in his Cabinet and senior staff at the White House. Do we want to make something of that? I mean, is there going to be this greater sense of diversity and inclusiveness? Is the Bush administration trying to signal that?

AMY WALTER, "THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT": Well, I think certainly when you put somebody forward in your very first two days like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, certainly you're making a statement about diversity. But I think we can't read too much into these first couple of appointments, and suggest that this is perhaps emblematic of how the Bush administration is going to focus for next four years.

Certainly, we have hundreds more appointments that the Bush administration needs to make, and I think we need to take some time, sit back, watch this process work its way up. Understand it's a very political process, and in this media age it's certainly one that's very tailored for the video and TV cameras. But I think history and the next few months will give us a better sense of what this administration will look like.

CHEN: Tailored for the pundits as well. For those of us who sit outside the beltway, we hear all this stuff about bipartisanship and all work together, and this sort of thing, but a 15-minute meeting with the vice president today. I mean, what are we talking about? Is there really a sense that there's going to be this great healing that everyone is saying there is?

WALTER: Right. Wouldn't that be nice if we could join hands and sing Kumbaya.

(CROSSTALK)

CHEN: Can't we all work together?

WALTER: Everybody. Well, first of all, I mean, Joie, I mean it is Christmas season so I think there certainly -- that certainly plays into it. No one wants to look like a grinch this time of year.

CHEN: Oh, we do. We're the media. We like to look like that.

WALTER: That's right. As much as we can try to keep us away from the real spirit of Christmas, here. But look, I think politicians do whatever is in their best interest. And certainly at point, when you look at polling and the mood of the country, they are sick and tired of the partisanship. The divisiveness of the election is something they want to put behind them. It doesn't make sense for leaders to come out now and start pointing fingers.

But I think you're absolutely right. Once thence things start rolling on Capitol Hill, let's see, you know, how long this spirit of cooperation last. And most importantly, for Democrats who are looking for any single opportunity to take back the House and the Senate in 2002, they want to look for any chink in the armor here and they'll certainly exploit that.

CHEN: Yes, and also looking at this notion of a warm and fuzzy feeling on Capitol Hill, after all, Mr. Hastert -- Speaker Hastert offering up some digs -- nice digs for the incoming vice president, not only on the Senate side, but on the House side. That's pretty unusual and must send a signal to Democrats.

WALTER: Right. And certainly, you know, Republicans in the House were not always on the same page as then-Governor Bush during the campaign, though I think Bush has made it quite clear that he's the new guy in town, and things will be different now that he's the president.

But if you are in the Republican leadership, too, you're looking out for your own best interests, obviously and we have to see how those two mesh in a very political -- politically charged environment, a very close house. But look, right now we don't even have committee chairman yet, so to talk about where legislation is going to be moving in Congress is really way too soon.

CHEN: Yes, but there are already some signals about Mr. Bush's tax plans.

WALTER: That's right, and some of the signals were, and I think this is what you were alluding to earlier, that Hastert made the statement that, you know, it might be nicer instead of pushing through this trillion or so dollar tax plan all at once, let's break it up into nice little easy parts and that will be easier for Congress and the American people to swallow.

But, you know, I would suggest that we are looking now at numbers that are really too far -- it's really too far down the road to even think about specifics. We have no idea where the economy is going to be. We don't have a secretary of the treasury. And as I pointed out, we don't have committee chairman in the House.

So, to suggest we know where legislation is going to be going, especially something as specific as tax cut plan, and that's so heavy with numbers, I don't know if we can start to speculate too much on that today.

CHEN: All right, Amy. We will in the future, in sure of that.

WALTER: Of course we will.

CHEN: Amy Walter of "The Cook Political Report." Thanks very much for being with us.

WALTER: Thank you.

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