President-elect Clinton has done what he promised to do: bring new faces and new ideas to his Cabinet, make his Cabinet look more like America, and do it all before Christmas. No small feat, to be sure.
Zoe Baird's nomination to be U.S. attorney general came after much public speculation about whether Clinton would indeed appoint the first woman to head the Justice Department. The 40-year old general counsel for Aetna Life & Casualty Co. will also be one of the youngest ever. Baird is somewhat of a political unknown but she has attracted considerable attention in the corporate community. A campaign adviser to Clinton with experience in the Carter Administration, she is one of the first women to be general counsel to a Fortune 500 corporation. Baird developed and led a high-profile initiative at Aetna to get corporate counsel to better manage their legal costs.
Clinton's nominee for Agriculture secretary, Rep. Mike Espy, 39, is the first black congressman from Mississippi since Reconstruction. His district includes the Mississippi Delta, some of the richest agricultural land in America and some of its poorest people. Espy has been interested in improving the lives of American farmers since he joined the Congress in 1986, serving on the Agriculture and related committees, and had aggressively sought the Cabinet Agriculture post.
Bruce Babbitt, the 54-year old former Arizona governor and one-time presidential aspirant, is an excellent nominee for Interior secretary. As head of the nonpartisan League of Conservation Voters, Babbitt has long been vocal about the need to better protect America's natural resources. But Babbitt sees environmental concerns as global now and his influence will no doubt be key in the development of Clinton's policies on global warming and the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Federico Pena, 45, former mayor of Denver, lead Clinton's transition team on transportation issues and will now head the Transportation Department. While mayor, Pena launched the $3-billion Denver International Airport, scheduled to open next fall.
With younger nominees, as well as three women, two Latinos and four African-Americans, Clinton has picked a Cabinet that better represents America's diversity.