- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2000

Conservatives expressed frustration yesterday that President-elect George W. Bush has not named former Sen. Daniel R. Coats as defense secretary, saying a snub would alienate the social-conservative wing of the Republican Party that helped to elect Mr. Bush.
Republican sources say some conservatives have telephoned Vice President-elect and transition chief Richard B. Cheney and that Mr. Cheney is noncommittal except to say Mr. Coats is still a front-runner among several candidates.
The sources said the nomination appears to be a battle between Mr. Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana and a staunch social conservative, and Paul Wolfowitz, a top Pentagon policy-maker in the administration of Mr. Bush's father. An announcement on who will be the new defense secretary is not expected until next week.
The transition is also said to have looked at several high-powered industrialists. The Bush team considered FedEx founder Frederick Smith for the job. But a company spokeswoman said Mr. Smith, a Marine Corps aviator in Vietnam and fraternity brother of Mr. Bush's at Yale, is not interested in the position.
Mr. Coats, who served on the Armed Services Committee, has been interviewed by Mr. Bush. He is backed by leading conservative Republican senators, such as Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
Republican sources said Mr. Coats has been caught up in a power struggle pitting him against Mr. Wolfowitz, who is backed by Richard Armitage, a Reagan administration Pentagon official who advised the president-elect during the campaign.
Mr. Coats is endorsed by social conservatives, who hope he will reverse what they view as eight years of "social experimentation" at the Pentagon by Clinton appointees. Mr. Coats opposes abortion and open homosexuality in the military and has reservations about mixing men and women during recruit training.
"Conservatives are getting greatly concerned about Bush's Cabinet selections, and Coats is one they want," a senior Republican congressional aide said. "There is clearly an internal struggle. Mr. Bush has to understand he can't push his agenda without conservatives."
Mr. Coats' candidacy may be the victim of an internal debate between conservatives and centrists within the Bush team. Mr. Coats had a conservative voting record during 17 years as a House member and senator.
But most Republican sources discounted the theory that Mr. Coats is too conservative for the president-elect. They note that on key issues, such as retaining the ban on open homosexuals in the military and upgrading combat readiness, the two are ideological soul mates.
Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Maryland Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he supports Mr. Coats.
"I think he is going to support the social issues I think are important," said Mr. Bartlett, who opposes homosexuals in the military and putting women on Navy subma-
rines. "The military is not a laboratory for social experimentation."
Asked what would happen if Mr. Bush bowed to ongoing objections to Mr. Coats from homosexual and feminist groups, Mr. Bartlett said, "I would hope not. That would not send the right message to his base, would it?"
Attacks on Mr. Coats from liberal groups continued yesterday as Americans for Democratic Action put out a statement with the headline, "Coats's lifetime voting record: conservative, not compassionate." The ADA's statement accused Mr. Coats of a "consistently reactionary voting pattern."
Said Elaine Donnelly, head of the conservative Center for Military Readiness, "If Bush yields to that, or is perceived to be yielding to that, it would really be disheartening for the military who voted in great numbers for Bush."
Mr. Coats received support yesterday from a Democrat, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut.
"I don't agree with Dan Coats on everything," said the former vice-presidential candidate. "We have pretty big disagreements on some issues. But on … the most important issue for our defense, as I see it, which is defense transformation, keeping us strong in the world … I think Dan Coats would be a superb choice."
Some conservatives expressed dismay that Mr. Bush has picked two-thirds of his national security team Colin Powell as secretary of state and Condoleezza Rice as national security adviser but so far has left the top Pentagon post unfilled.
"So far they haven't done [a choice of] a prominent conservative that both the social and economic parts of the party are united behind," a House Armed Services Committee aide said. "They should have announced it very soon after the secretary of state announcement."
Mr. Cheney is said to admire both Mr. Coats and Mr. Wolfowitz, who served in the Pentagon when Mr. Cheney was defense secretary.

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