- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2000

AUSTIN, Texas — George W. Bush, having "pretty much" made up his mind on a White House staff, worked on assembling a prospective Cabinet today as he awaited a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court that he hoped would hand him a decisive victory.

"We'll see what happens there," he told reporters after getting a private briefing from the head of his legal team, James A. Baker III, on the morning's arguments in Tallahassee, Fla.

Mr. Bush would not divulge what MR. Baker told him, but he seemed upbeat as he greeted a group of fourth graders from a nearby elementary school on the steps of the capitol and spoke with several dozen well-wishers.

Uncertainty about the election outcome is keeping the Texas governor from making his choices for top administration spots public.

Mr. Bush was in his state capitol office during the Florida Supreme Court oral arguments. "I haven't watched any of it. I've been in meetings," he told reporters.

He was to spend most of the afternoon with Andrew Card, his choice for White House chief of staff, going over transition planning, aides said.

The Bush camp had hoped to announce prospective White House appointments this week, ahead of Cabinet posts. However, with the election drama dragging on in various courts, Bush advisers decided any announcements might appear to be premature.

So even White House staff selections — posts that don't require Senate confirmation — were being put off until next week.

"I imagine I could name a few folks pretty quickly, if I so choose to do so," Bush told reporters yesterday.

Mr. Bush was splitting his time today between his office at the state capitol and the governor's mansion. He had no meetings planned with prospective Cabinet members, aides said.

He also received a national security briefing from the CIA in what already has become a daily routine after just three days. He will get the in-person briefings daily every day except Sunday, aides said.

Some Bush advisers raised the possibility that Mr. Bush might wait and announce multiple Cabinet selections at once, possibly during a trip to Washington if he gets a decisive court verdict or a concession from Al Gore. Such a trip also might include a courtesy call on President Clinton and a visit with congressional leaders of both parties, the advisers said.

But other officials stressed that options for announcements remained in flux — and that Mr. Bush might also decide to make the opening round in Austin or from his ranch near Waco.

An individual involved in Mr. Bush's Cabinet deliberations said former Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft is among the candidates being considered for attorney general; former Reagan administration official Linda Chavez, who ran unsuccessfully for a Maryland Senate seat in 1986, is among the people being considered for labor secretary; and former Michigan Sen. Spence Abraham is in the mix for transportation secretary.

Mr. Bush indicated he was further along in picking a White House staff.

"When it comes to a White House staff, I've pretty well made up my mind on who should serve," he said.

Mr. Bush conferred yesterday with Stanford University administrator Condoleezza Rice, his all-but-certain choice for national security adviser. He confirmed she was "on my list."

Economist Lawrence Lindsey was believed to be in line for a top White House economic job — either chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers or the chairman of the National Economic Council. He also is a possible candidate for treasury secretary.

However, Mr. Bush was believed to be looking elsewhere for the Treasury assignment, perhaps to Wall Street. Among those most frequently mentioned by Republicans close to the process were Jack Hennessey, former CEO of Credit Suisse First Boston, and Walter Shipley, the retired chairman of Chase Manhattan Corp.

Rep. Bill Archer, the retiring chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, also is a possibility, as is Donald Marron, chairman of PaineWebber Inc., though other GOP operatives have minimized his chances.

Those close to the process said Mr. Bush was near final decisions on several top White House staff jobs:

— Karl Rove, the Bush campaign's chief political strategist, was said to be in line either for a top White House strategy post or a similar position at the Republican National Committee. Most likely, officials said, was for him to have a White House role combining policy and politics.

— Karen Hughes, Mr. Bush's spokeswoman and longtime adviser, seemed more likely to receive a title such as "counselor to the president," instead of becoming White House press secretary or communications director.

— Ari Fleischer, a campaign spokesman who now handles media for the Bush-Cheney transition office in McLean, Va., was viewed by colleagues as most likely to become press secretary, briefing White House reporters.

— Mindy Tucker, a campaign spokeswoman currently assigned to Florida, was likely to be offered a top communications job in a Bush administration.

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