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President-Elect Bush Selects Two Senior White House Advisers

Aired January 4, 2001 - 4:04 p.m. ET


JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: For the latest developments from Austin, Texas this afternoon we turn to CNN's Major Garrett, who is in Austin.

Major, I not only heard in Senator McCain's comments something of a hot across the bow to the incoming administration, but also a little reminder from one former contender to another: Hey, remember what we talked about in the South Carolina primaries, there?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Remember what we talked about in the South Carolina primaries. Remember what you did to me in New York, for example, when Senator McCain was running, trying to compete very aggressively against then-candidate George Bush.

Some of the Bush supporters got together and put together what is called an independent expenditure group, which put together campaign ads on television throughout New York that attacked McCain record on several fronts.

McCain responded vehemently against those, and spent most of his time in the waning days of the New York primary responding to the Bush ads, which he considered a case study in what's wrong with campaign financing in America: The fact that someone on a line with the Bush campaign could suddenly raise money, put ads on the air that he would have to respond to, driving him off of his message.

And as far as legislative etiquette is concerned. this is quite definitely a breach. Typically, the party of the incoming president reserves all legislative space for the incoming president, making sure that that president's agenda is first up on the tee.

Not so with Senator McCain. He wants his bill to be considered first, before any Bush legislation even comes to Capitol Hill. This will considerably complicate the Bush team's legislative planning, which was already complicated, of course, because they've had a shorter time to deal with it due to the Florida recount and the shortened transition -- Joie.

CHEN: Major, let's move on to some of the other activities of the president-elect's day. Part of what he did today was spent time talking about the New Economy, the Old Economy and what can be done to shore up the New Economy. Tell us about that.

GARRETT: Two days of conversations about the entire economy. Yesterday, an emphasis on the Old Economy, if you will. Today, a very definite emphasis on the New Economy.

More than a dozen high-tech chieftains came here to Austin, representing the biggest companies. America Online, IBM, Dell, Cisco Systems; all of them here to talk with the president-elect about their desires and what they think should happen with the coming administration, and also their fears and anxiety about what's happening with the economy as they see it.

The president-elect's team believes the high-tech world is really on the cutting edge, not only of technological development, but because of its strong orientation to customer service will feel the first effects of a recession or a tightening in the economy.

The president-elect wanted to hear about that as well. He talked very specifically with them about their concerns about creating an educated workforce, about importing immigrated workers to help them fill slots that they can't fill with American workers now. A wide range of agenda that he discussed with them, making it clear that he wants a strong political alliance with this New Economy leadership and its emerging political clout -- Joie.

CHEN: Major, not only speaking of filling in the blanks in your team, the president-elect, of course, has picked all the members of his Cabinet, but he is filling in some spots in his administration.

GARRETT: Yes, and his inner circle, and that's -- there's really two circles in Washington for any president: There's the outer circuit -- circle at the Cabinet level; then the inner circle, the people who work in the West Wing, closest to the president himself.

He named one top adviser today, Karl Rove, who was his chief political strategist during the campaign, and he also named Joe Allbaugh, who was his campaign manager, to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Now, Mr. Rove will have a very large portfolio in the West Wing, indeed. He will deal with all political matters related to the White House, public liaison and strategic planning for the future, which means he will be in charge of a good bit of the Bush communication strategy, plus all matters political dealing with the White House.

Joe Allbaugh will head up the Federal Emergency Management Agency, an agency that President Clinton clearly revived, and showed that if you have a strong FEMA, the American public see a strong and activist government when times are worst. FEMA is the first line of defense for the federal government in times of natural disaster. The president-elect clearly wanted a close and long-standing aide there to make sure he gets off to the right foot whenever there is a disaster and the country seeks help from the federal government -- Joie.

CHEN: Major, give us a little perspective, here. I note with great interest with in his inner circle the president-elect is picking, as you say, names that are familiar, people who have been very close to him for a long time, and yet in his Cabinet appointments, he picked some very high-power figures; figures who have been leaders in their own right in other ways, almost as though these guys would be delegated to handling their administrations within their departments in their own rather power. It almost seem like he's setting up a situation where there could be a lot of conflict between two strong sides?

GARRETT: Well, clearly the president-elect team doesn't see it that way at all. What the president-elect team says is that the president-elect wants his closest and most long-standing advisers -- advisers, rather, most close to him in the West Wing of the White House. These are people who've been with him for years and years.

There is a saying down here in Texas about an iron triangle. There are three members of the triangle, as you might expect: Karen Hughes was named the counselor to the president; Mr. Rove, who I mentioned, the senior adviser who'll have this large political portfolio; and Joe Allbaugh, who'll head FEMA. That's the iron triangle in Texas. It's now going to be transported to Washington.

And what the president-elect's teams says about the Cabinet is the president-elect wants very strong people to run agencies strongly. He will hold them to an agenda. He will expect results from them, and he expects good advice from them. But the day-to-day advice, the kind you get every day in the West Wing, he wants from people who've been with him for a very, very long time -- Joie.

CHEN: Major Garrett for us in the Austin, Texas.



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