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CNN Today

Bush Nominates Paul O'Neill as Treasury Secretary

Aired December 20, 2000 - 2:10 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: And now we're going to get back to the economy. And with doubts raging from coast to coast and border to border, George W. Bush named the first member of his economic team today.

CNN's Kelly Wallace is in Austin with details on that and the formation of the Bush government.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, a senior Bush aide said that the president-elect decided to announce his nominee for secretary of state first, and then nominee for treachery secretary second, to reassure the world that international policy and fiscal policy in the United States were in the right hands. And so, about two hours ago, Mr. Bush introduced everyone to 65-year-old Paul O'Neill, currently chairman of the Alcoa Corporation, now nominee for U.S. treasury secretary.

Mr. O'Neill is someone who does have government experience. He worked as deputy budget director in the Ford administration. He is also someone who knows Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan quite well. Mr. O'Neill said that their ties date back to 1969. Mr. Bush said that Mr. O'Neill is the right person to lead the economy at a time when the president-elect said there are warning signs of a possible slowdown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Paul O'Neill has strong credentials in government and in business. He worked at the Office of Management and Budget and had a distinguished record. People who knew Paul in that capacity knew him to be a straight shooter, an innovator, someone who could lead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: And the announcements keep coming. In just about 45 minutes, we are expecting Mr. Bush to unveil three other Cabinet appointees. The first: His long-time friend and trusted adviser Don Evans is expected to be nominated to be commerce secretary. He served as chairman of the Bush campaign. He also has been Governor Bush's fund-raiser since 1978, and helped bring in a record $100 million for the presidential effort.

Mel Martinez is expected to be tapped for housing and urban development secretary. He is currently an elected official in Orange County, Florida. He was born in Cuba and came to the United States as a refugee when he was just about 15 years old. And he is a close ally of Governor Jeb Bush of Florida.

And Ann Veneman is expected to be nominated as agriculture secretary. She most recently served as director of California's Food and Agriculture Department. She was the highest ranking women in the Department of Agriculture under the Bush administration. And she also was co-chair for the Bush campaign in California -- again, that announcement expected about 45 minutes from now -- CNN expected to take it live.

Lou, it's clear that George W. Bush is trying to keep with his goal of creating a diverse Cabinet. So far, he has named two African- Americans, two Hispanics and three woman to his Cabinet or his senior White House staff -- Lou.

WATERS: And Kelly, the O'Neill choice as treasury secretary would appear to have Dick Cheney's fingerprints all over it. Is it a fair assumption that Dick Cheney is playing a heavy hand in the makeup of the new government?

WALLACE: Absolutely. That's a definite fair assumption. And Mr. Cheney admits he is playing a definitely -- a strong role. Dick Cheney served as chief of staff to President Ford at the same time that Paul O'Neill was serving as deputy budget director in the Ford administration -- Mr. O'Neill saying that he knows vice president- elect Dick Cheney quite well -- so that alliance, as well as his alliance with Alan Greenspan, clearly two things in his favor, and perhaps why Mr. Bush chose him for his treasury secretary nominee.

WATERS: All right, Kelly Wallace, keeping watch in Austin, Texas today.

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