Angry Clinton Defends His Cabinet Selections : Nominees: He attacks criticism by ‘bean counters.’ O’Leary, Riley are named to energy, education posts.
Waggling his finger and glaring angrily, President-elect Bill Clinton lashed out Monday at “bean counters” who have criticized his Cabinet selections as short on women and minorities, saying that they are “playing quota games and math games” and ignoring his non-Cabinet appointments.
“I think I’m doing a good job,” Clinton said, adding that his Cabinet selection process “has a lot of integrity.”
Clinton’s anger may have been feigned somewhat for political purposes--when truly angry his temper is far more volcanic--but the sharp words reflected what aides say is a combination of the pressure to complete the Cabinet choices by this week and dismay at the criticism he has received from political allies who now believe that he has not lived up to his promise of an Administration that would “look like America.”
“It was less than a full-scale blow up,” said one aide, “but it reflects the way he feels.”
“He’s frustrated,” said another. “He’s very proud of the appointments he’s made. He’s working very hard to reach out. And these people are rushing to judgments on the basis of stuff you guys have written that is not necessarily true.”
Clinton’s outburst came as he moved two steps closer to completing his Cabinet--naming Hazel O’Leary, an executive with Minneapolis-based Northern States Power Co., as secretary of energy and former South Carolina Gov. Richard W. Riley, an old and close friend, to be secretary of education.
Clinton praised Riley as a mentor and friend, lauding his ability to gain passage of education reform measures through an often-reluctant state Legislature. For his part, Riley borrowed the title of a report that several years ago criticized the state of American education as he pledged to work so the country would be “not a ‘Nation at Risk,’ but a nation on the move.”
O’Leary’s nomination had sparked worries from many environmentalists because of her company’s active nuclear power generation program and her efforts as a corporate executive to get the government to relieve utilities of their current burden of caring for high-level nuclear wastes.
To assuage those concerns, both Clinton and O’Leary repeatedly talked of the importance of conservation and the promotion of alternative, renewable energy resources, such as solar and wind energy. “The nation needs to use energy more efficiently,” O’Leary said, adding that it is “unconscionable” that U.S. dependence on oil imports is as high now as it was when she first worked for the government 20 years ago.
Asked what steps she would advocate to reduce oil dependence, O’Leary noted that she drives a car that can run on natural gas and said the federal government should move more actively to support such technologies and to provide incentives for utilities to invest in energy conservation.
O’Leary is the second woman and third black person to be named to Clinton’s Cabinet. In addition, he has named women to head the Environmental Protection Agency and the Council of Economic Advisers, both senior posts, although not formally of Cabinet rank. The other female Cabinet member he named is Donna Shalala, chancellor at the University of Wisconsin, to be secretary of health and human services.
Transition aides said that Clinton would make no announcements today but other sources indicated that some might be possible. The deadline for completing the selections has now slipped to Thursday. In the end, the aides said, at least four members of the Cabinet likely will be women, including a female attorney general and a female ambassador to the United Nations.
Clinton has considered women for the attorney general’s post, but several potential choices have asked that their names be withdrawn, including federal appeals court judge Patricia M. Wald and former Jimmy Carter Administration Education Secretary Shirley M. Hufstedler, a prominent Los Angeles attorney.
As for the U.N. ambassador’s job, President Bush had removed it from the Cabinet in a streamlining effort. But Clinton is likely to reverse that move, aides said, in part to provide an additional slot that could be used to diversify his team. Clinton adviser Madeline Albright, a professor at Georgetown University, is considered a likely candidate. She was in Little Rock Monday to meet with Clinton, as was R. James Woolsey, a former undersecretary of the Navy under Carter, whose name has emerged as a contender for director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He now is an Arms Control and Disarmament Agency official.
The most likely nominees to be made next are for the Interior and agriculture departments, for which former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt and Rep. Mike Espy (D-Miss.) are considered the leading candidates. Espy was in Little Rock Monday morning to meet with Clinton. Babbitt had left his home in Phoenix and was reportedly en route to Washington for meetings, transition sources said.
All the speculation and cat-and-mouse games surround a process that has grown increasingly tense, as Clinton’s demeanor at the press conference indicated.
Clinton aides worry that the pressure from outside groups has put the President-elect in a politically untenable position: If he appoints a large number of additional white men to his Cabinet, he risks disappointing some of the Democratic Party’s strongest constituencies. But if he appoints many more women or minorities, he will be accused of pandering to special interests.
Clinton’s angry statement, which he told staff members ahead of time that he planned to make, may have been a way of extricating himself from that position by publicly declaring independence from the pressure groups.
“I’m the President. I have to worry about who’s going to do what job,” Clinton told reporters who asked him about the complaints from women’s activists.
“I think when this is all said and done, we’ll have by far the most diverse Administration with more people given the opportunity to serve than ever before,” Clinton added. “The people who are doing this talking by and large are talking about quotas. I don’t believe in quotas and they’re checking on numbers.”
The complaints about his nominees, Clinton said, ignored appointments such as Laura D’Andrea Tyson to head the Council of Economic Advisers or Carol Browner to head the EPA.
“They would have been counting those positions against our Administration, those bean counters who are doing that, if I had appointed white men to those positions. And you know that’s true,” he said.
Patricia Ireland of the National Organization for Women, disputed that argument. “I worry that it sounds a little defensive on his part,” she said. “He sounds like he’s trying to lower our expectations, but expectations were set by him in the first place” with his campaign pledges of diversity.
But Ireland, along with leaders of other women’s groups who met with transition chairman Vernon E. Jordan Jr. Monday afternoon, sought to defuse some of the controversy. “We’re pleased with the diversity” in appointments so far, she said. “We hope we’ll get more.”
Clinton denied that any white, male candidates had been eliminated because of the pressure he had received. But he seemingly undermined that argument a few minutes later when he defended the reputation of the man who many had thought would receive the energy job, Sen. Timothy E. Wirth (D-Colo.), and strongly suggested that Wirth had not received the job because of the desire for diversity.
Enemies of Wirth’s had spread rumors around Washington about his campaign finances and other subjects, Clinton noted. But, he insisted, that campaign had no impact on his decision.
“I had a long talk with him today about this,” Clinton said of Wirth. “And he said to me, he said: ‘You know, you ran for President, and I helped you because we promised to empower all kinds of people. And you have made the right decision today. I support your decision.’ ”
NEW CABINET NOMINEES: Education’s Richard W. Riley and Energy’s Hazel O’Leary are profiled. A26
Latest Clinton Appointees
Thumbnail sketches of President-elect Bill Clinton’s appointees announced Monday:
Who: Richard W. Riley
Background: A former two-term governor of South Carolina, Riley was first elected in 1978, the same year Clinton became governor of Arkansas. As governor, he orchestrated a 1% sales tax increase in 1984 to fund changes in his state’s school system. Born in Greenville, S.C., he is a lawyer who served in the Legislature in the 1960s and 1970s. He is married and has four children.
Quote: “There is no magic bullet to solve our education problems. We need to continue our effort . . . to bring about fundamental change but to do it in a positive way.”
Who: Hazel O’Leary
Background: A lawyer from Minneapolis, O’Leary is president of the natural gas division of Northern States Power Co., a utility that operates nuclear and coal-fired power plants. She was appointed to energy posts in both the Ford and Carter administrations. She came to NSP from O’Leary Associates in New Jersey, a consulting firm specializing in energy economics and planning.
Quote: “I believe we need change in the Department of Energy. Change is necessary because the same tried and true strategies do not work.”
Source: Associated Press
6 Spots Yet to Fill
President-elect Bill Clinton has filled eight of his Cabinet posts: POSITIONS FILLED
Post Appointee Currently Treasury Lloyd Bentsen Nicholas F. Brady Labor Robert B. Reich Lynn Martin Commerce Ronald H. Brown Barbara Hackman Franklin Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown Anthony J. Principi Housing and Urban Development Henry G. Cisneros Jack Kemp Education Richard W. Riley Lamar Alexander Energy Hazel O’Leary James D. Watkins Health and Donna Shalala Louis W. Sullivan Human Services STILL TO COME Interior Bruce Babbitt Manuel Lujan Jr. State Warren Christopher Lawrence S. Eagleburger Defense Les Aspin Dick Cheney Transportation William Daley Andrew H. Card Jr. Agriculture Mike Espy Edward R. Madigan Attorney General (unclear) William P. Barr
Source: Times staff and wire reports
What They Do
A look at the agencies that Monday’s appointees will lead:
Education Department: It is the youngest of the Cabinet agencies, created in 1977. It administers all federal education assistance, including loans for higher education, preschool programs and adult education and training. The department also provides aid to school districts with military personnel, funds for migrant and Indian education and programs for disabled children.
Energy Department: Created in 1977 as a response to the oil crisis, the department has responsibilities ranging from manufacturing nuclear warheads to studying solar energy to promoting energy conservation. Other activities include operating the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and managing long-term nuclear wastes. It operates the government’s high-tech physics research laboratories.
Source: Associated Press