Bush, Gore Quietly Look to Transition
The resumes are sitting in piles on their desks. The phones are ringing with discreet calls from people close enough to those in the inner circle to know their unlisted numbers.
For the kingmakers, the people working in secrecy to shape the next president’s administration, the pressure is on.
Not to win. Their job is to look beyond the election, to assemble the team of men and women on whom the fate of the next president will ride. Cabinet officials. White House staff. Directors of the major agencies.
“As you approach the final stretch of the campaign, each candidate is going to have laid in place a shadow transition team. And who gets picked to head the personnel search is often idiosyncratic and very deeply buried,” said Richard Solomon, a former senior official in three Republican administrations and a key figure in President Bush’s transition team.
While the official word from the George W. Bush and Al Gore campaigns on the Cabinet chess game is “no comment"--in a race this close neither candidate wants to be seen as cocky--no one in this town doubts that the kingmakers’ searches are well underway.
Honchoing the creation of a Bush Cabinet is Clay Johnson, an old Yale buddy of the GOP nominee’s who works as unofficial chief of staff in the Texas governor’s Austin office.
Made up in nearly equal parts of younger holdovers from his father’s administration, his own friends and governors he is hoping to pull into the Washington loop, the Bush Cabinet choices reflect the candidate’s need to reward his Texas loyalists and to bolster his team with experienced Washington and foreign policy hands.
Under Bush, Powell Is Sure Bet at State
The man reported to be in charge of picking Gore’s team, U.S. Telecom Assn. President Roy Neel, is an old Washington hand. His goal: balancing Gore’s eagerness to select a Cabinet that does not resemble Clinton’s with the fact that, after eight years of having a Democrat in the White House, many of the most able Democrats already are working in the current administration.
Under Bush, the job of secretary of State is retired Army Gen. Colin L. Powell’s for the asking, Bush aides say. During this campaign, Bush has hinted repeatedly that he would offer Powell, a key figure in the Persian Gulf War, the job.
Condoleezza Rice--a Stanford University scholar who is the Bush campaign’s top foreign policy advisor and who served in President Bush’s administration--is the likely choice for the White House’s key foreign policy post, national security advisor.
Robert Zoellick, a Bush campaign foreign policy advisor who held key posts at the State and Treasury departments under Presidents Reagan and Bush, also is in line for a top foreign policy or international Cabinet trade post.
Another holdover from President Bush’s White House days, Paul D. Wolfowitz, is believed to be George W. Bush’s top pick for secretary of Defense. The dean of Johns Hopkins University’s school of advanced international studies served under Republican vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney at the Pentagon. Richard L. Armitage, who served in the Bush administration, and Steve Hadley, a former assistant secretary of Defense under Cheney, also are contenders.
Sam Nunn Possible Choice for Defense
If the election’s outcome leaves Congress narrowly divided between Republicans and Democrats, former Democratic senator and defense hawk Sam Nunn of Georgia may be Bush’s choice for the Defense job.
For Treasury secretary, Bush is said to favor Donald Marron, chairman of PaineWebber Group Inc. Lawrence B. Lindsay, Gov. Bush’s top campaign economic advisor, may be offered the post. But Lindsay, a former Federal Reserve governor, also could be offered the job of running the National Economic Council.
The Justice Department may turn deeply conservative if Bush wins--with legal powers from some of Washington’s conservative think tanks and from former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr’s team likely to be tapped for ranking positions.
For the attorney general’s spot, Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, who served in the Justice Department in the Bush White House, is a likely pick. If Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.) loses his reelection bid, he might also be tapped.
The top jobs in a Gore administration, especially those that deal with foreign policy, are being strongly influenced by the campaign’s foreign policy advisor, Leon Fuerth, who is expected to get the national security advisor job if Gore is elected.
Richard C. Holbrooke, former assistant secretary of State and ambassador to the United Nations, has been gunning publicly for the job of secretary of State in a Gore administration. The tactics he has used--wooing the press and openly floating his name for a job he has said he covets--often backfire in this town of back-room decision-making.
But Gore is said to respect Holbrooke so much that the ambassador’s eagerness is not working against him.
Another Democrat pushing hard for a position in a Gore administration is Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig, who has said publicly he would covet the top Defense post. But Gore could choose ally Rep. Norman D. Dicks (D-Wash.) instead.
Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who openly has scoffed at Bush’s proposal for reforming Social Security, is said to be eager to stay on in the job he inherited from Robert E. Rubin. Fannie Mae Chief James A. Johnson also is said to be in the running if Gore wants to make a change.
Eric H. Holder Jr., Atty. Gen. Janet Reno’s top deputy, is thought by people within the Justice Department to be a leading candidate for attorney general under Gore. Among others the vice president is said to be considering are Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, a former Michigan Supreme Court justice, or Gore’s brother-in-law Frank Hunger, a former assistant attorney general.
Once the top jobs are meted out in either a Gore or a Bush administration, there are still 10 more Cabinet posts and a dozen more key administration jobs to fill.
2 Candidates Mentioned for HHS
With Bush pledging to make reforming Social Security and Medicare priorities, his choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services could be critical. One possibility is William L. Roper, who worked in both the Reagan and Bush administrations before becoming dean at the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina. Also mentioned is Gail Wilensky, who helped craft George W. Bush’s prescription drug plan and is a former director of the Health Care Financing Administration, which runs Medicare.
For Education secretary, Bush is expected to turn to Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson, who has supported a voucher program in his state and has been heavily involved in education issues.
In a Gore administration, the HHS post is likely to go to Nancy-Ann Min DeParle, who headed the Health Care Financing Administration under Clinton. Surgeon General David Satcher is among others mentioned for the job.
Gore also is expected to put a lot of weight on choosing the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, and his top pick is said to be former aide Katie McGinty, who headed the White House Council on Environmental Quality in Clinton’s first term.