- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2000

Texas Gov. George W. Bush met yesterday with retired Gen. Colin Powell to discuss "national security matters and foreign policy matters," but he refused to make official the general's likely appointment as the new secretary of state.
"No better person to talk about that with than Colin Powell got a great deal of experience," Mr. Bush said as he and running mate Richard B. Cheney went into the meeting. "Dick and I trust his judgment."
If he becomes secretary of state, Mr. Powell would be the most powerful black Cabinet secretary in history.
While Mr. Bush has made it clear for months that he intends to name Mr. Powell to the spot, neither man has said so specifically. They appear to be nervous about making announcements while Democrat Al Gore still has a shot at undoing the results of the Florida vote, which make Mr. Bush president-elect.
The Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court are expected to rule definitively on the Florida vote as early as next week.
"Obviously, he has appointed members of his transition team and those who have to get to work now so that we don't lose too much time during the transition period," Mr. Powell told reporters before his meeting at Mr. Bush's ranch near Waco. "But I never expected that the governor would reach that point in his deliberations until after this matter had been resolved."
The two men refused to discuss more specifically what the meeting was about.
In Washington, meanwhile, speculation continued on the shape of a Bush administration. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge dampened rumors that he would enter the Cabinet by saying he would prefer to finish his term, which ends in 2003.
Michigan lawmakers say Gov. John Engler, a fervent supporters of Mr. Bush, would also prefer to stay home and finish his term, which also ends in 2003, rather than come to Washington with a new administration.
A Democrat widely mentioned as a possible crossover member of the Bush administration made ambivalent comments yesterday. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Sen. John B. Breaux, a conservative-leaning Democrat from Louisiana, said he would "be more useful to Bush in the Senate than in the Cabinet."
He refused, however, to unequivocally rule out a Bush Cabinet post. Although the Bush campaign denies any official contacts with Democrats, Mr. Breaux told the paper that he has been contacted by "low-level people in the Bush organization" about cooperating with Republicans.
Democrats say they have received a flurry of calls from Republicans, but it is not clear whether they are official Bush campaign calls or subtle efforts to test the solidarity of the Democratic caucus.
"There has been a lot of calls to Democrats from people purporting to be from the Bush campaign or claiming to be working on the transition and suggesting that the transition would be very interested in them serving in the Cabinet or a high-level Cabinet position," said a senior House Democratic aide.
"But Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have not made any of those calls and neither has [transition head Andrew] Card," the aide said, suggesting that some Republicans are free-lancing largely in the name of mischief.
Officially, Democrats in Congress remain united behind Mr. Gore although privately they are clearly beginning to speculate on how a President Bush would deal with the closely divided Congress.
Rep. Robert E. Andrews, New Jersey Democrat, said Mr. Gore's campaign and congressional Democrats see next week as decisive. If Mr. Gore loses in either the Florida Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court "It's over, that's it."
Mr. Andrews, who has been assisting the Gore campaign in Florida but has a history of cooperating with Republicans, said Mr. Bush could have some success in working with congressional Democrats.
"If George W. Bush is the president, I will be eager to work with him," said Mr. Andrews.
Mr. Bush's brief appearance before reporters yesterday was his first in days, and the first time in a week he has taken questions. Reporters and commentators have widely speculated about the wisdom of Mr. Bush's low profile at a time when Mr. Gore and his running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, are appearing on television and radio several times a day.
Mr. Bush, however, refused to even entertain such a question yesterday.
"That's pretty humorous," he said, laughing deeply, after a reporter asked if the staged appearance with Mr. Powell was an effort to quell criticism of his strategy.
Mr. Cheney took the question more seriously at a press briefing in Washington on Wednesday. He dismissed the notion that Mr. Bush was making a public relations mistake by letting his running mate and other senior aides do all the talking.
"Well, first of all, I think it's perfectly appropriate for him to spend time on his ranch and to continue to spend time in Texas," said Mr. Cheney. "On the one hand, we've been criticized for being too forward-leaning, now you suggest maybe we're too laid back. And I would suggest you can't have it both ways."
John Godfrey and Jerry Seper contributed to this report.

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