- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2000

An emotional President-elect George W. Bush resigned from the governorship of Texas yesterday and met with a bipartisan congressional group to discuss his education agenda as he prepared to nominate more Cabinet members today.
"There's only one thing that would cause me to leave early, and that's to become your president," Mr. Bush told state legislators as he resigned the office he had held since 1995.
Mr. Bush later met with 19 members of the House and Senate education committees from both parties to discuss his first legislative package, an education plan that will include a school-voucher proposal. Mr. Bush also wants Congress to approve a $5 billion reading initiative and to hold public schools financially accountable when students fail.
Today, Mr. Bush is likely to fill more top posts in his administration from the ranks of Republican governors. Republican sources say New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman is all but certain to be named administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson is expected to be chosen to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.
The president-elect got a surprise Wednesday night when Montana Gov. Mark Racicot, a Republican and close ally during the election campaign, took himself out of the running for attorney general. Mr. Racicot said he preferred not to move his family to Washington.
"I think it's very understandable that people at various stages of their life with various family needs have to weigh very carefully" such a move, said Bush transition spokesman Ari Fleischer. "And President-elect Bush is very understanding."
Mr. Racicot's decision elevates Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, a former Justice Department official and a favorite among conservatives, to the short list for the job.
The president-elect on Wednesday nominated four Cabinet members: businessman Paul O'Neill for Treasury secretary, Floridian Mel Martinez to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, former California agriculture director Ann Veneman to lead the Agriculture Department and campaign Chairman Don Evans to be commerce secretary. Retired Gen. Colin Powell was Mr. Bush's first nominee, for secretary of state.
Mr. Bush, who has said his Cabinet will include a Democrat or two, is still searching to realize his goal. Among the potential candidates are former Democratic Rep. Floyd Flake of New York for education secretary and Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles to run the Energy Department.
Yesterday, Mr. Bush also selected Stephen J. Hadley, a former assistant secretary of defense in his father's administration, to become deputy national security adviser.
Mr. Hadley, 53, was responsible in the previous Bush administration for defense policy regarding NATO and Western Europe, nuclear weapons and ballistic-missile defense, and arms control. He was also active in the negotiations that resulted in the START I and START II treaties.
He is also a partner in the Scowcroft Group Inc., an international consulting firm headed by former President Bush's national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft. Mr. Hadley is a member of the Department of Defense Policy Board and the National Security Advisory Panel to the Director of Central Intelligence. He will become deputy to National Security Adviser-designate Condoleezza Rice, who was nominated on Sunday.
Yesterday's meeting with congressional lawmakers on education centered on Mr. Bush's plan for local school control, greater accountability, improving literacy and increasing the quality of teachers.
"It's safe to say we just had an extraordinary meeting," Mr. Bush told reporters. "I would characterize our meeting as very hopeful."
Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, said Mr. Bush listened to lawmakers as well.
"I think it spoke volumes on how this new president is going to operate," Mr. Miller said. "It was a candid exchange."
The meeting signified that "education will be his top domestic priority," said spokeswoman Karen Hughes, who will be White House counselor.
Education was also on the agenda when Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney met his election adversary, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, at the Capitol yesterday.
Mr. Cheney said the two discussed whether Democrats and Republicans could find some common ground on education. But Mr. Lieberman signaled continued Democratic resistance to using taxpayer-funded vouchers for students in failing public schools to help them pay for private education.
"I did say to Secretary Cheney that when it came time to putting together the education-reform proposal that Senator [Evan] Bayh [of Indiana] and the other moderate Democrats and I in the Senate put together earlier this year, we did not have a voucher proposal in it because we felt it would make the overall proposal a nonstarter," Mr. Lieberman said. "It wouldn't go because vouchers are such a controversial idea here."
In a year with many highs and lows for Mr. Bush, yesterday provided one of his most public displays of emotion. He managed to choke back tears as he spoke of Lt. Gov. Rick Perry moving into the Governor's Mansion.
"My wish is that the new governor enjoys living in the mansion as much as we did," Mr. Bush said. "It won't be our home, but Texas always will be."
He said he spent six years trying to pass his agenda in Texas and learned something about himself in the process.
"The truth of the matter is, I realized how much this state has shaped me," Mr. Bush said. "In Texas, I have seen how diversity makes us stronger. I have seen how optimism can grow in tough places. I'm proud of the good we have done together in Texas, and I'm looking forward to the good we will do together in America."
Mr. Perry, a Republican, was sworn in as governor in a ceremony later in the day.
The president-elect also met yesterday with Hispanic leaders on the subject of education, and he will confer today with agricultural specialists from across the nation, including Miss Veneman.
Transition aides said Mr. Bush plans to spend the Christmas holidays at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, before visiting his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, in the Florida Keys. He is planning to return to Washington Dec. 28-29 to conduct more interviews with job candidates and other transition business.
This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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