- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2000

AUSTIN, Texas The Clinton administration took its first step yesterday toward transferring power to Republican George W. Bush, pledging to provide the president-elect with daily briefings on national security.
The Bush team, meanwhile, took its first step to bridge the partisan chasm left after the divisive election by announcing the president-elect may nominate some Democrats to his Cabinet.
The CIA security briefings, which Al Gore currently gets as vice president, were promised in a phone call between top Bush aide Andrew Card and the man he would replace: White House chief of staff John Podesta.
"We're on track," Mr. Card said after emerging from a morning meeting at the Texas Capitol. "I think we are appropriately positioned now to live up to expectations" for a swearing-in on Jan. 20.
But the Clinton administration did not budge yesterday on its General Services Administration's refusal to give the Bush team the keys to the federal government's transition offices or money to carry out planning for a new government.
The Secret Service, like the GSA, also was not ready to acknowledge any winner. Officials said the Secret Service was proceeding with "parallel" transition operations giving both the Democratic and Republican tickets the same training sessions, briefings, and help securing personal property for the move into the White House or vice-presidential residence at the Naval Observatory.
Mr. Bush spent yesterday mulling over nominees for his Cabinet, which top advisers said could include some Democrats for key posts in his administration. They said the prospect is in large part an acknowledgment of the extremely close election, in which Mr. Bush won by just four electoral votes.
"I do think there's a good possibility there will be some Democrats," Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney said. "The governor's given me instructions to look in those areas. We're going to want to emphasize diversity. We're going to want a broad Cabinet… . It'll be George W. Bush's administration.
"The country is very evenly divided. We're eager to work with the Democrats to put together the new administration and a program for governing."
There were no announcements of top-level nominees, nor are there likely to be for several more days. Advisers said that delay is a reflection of Mr. Bush's desire for an end to the court battles over Florida's recount.
But there was growing rancor among the Bush team over the Clinton administration's refusal to move on with transition.
"We think the administration has an obligation to do that," Mr. Cheney said on NBC's "Today" show yesterday. "They obviously disagree, and they're the ones in power, we're not."
And there were signs in the Republican administration-in-waiting of a growing weariness with Mr. Gore's public pleas Monday night and again yesterday for more recounts of ballots in Florida. Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes called a midafternoon press conference in Austin to rebut Mr. Gore's latest appeal for public support.
"Having failed to make his case to the American people last night, he apparently felt the need to restate his arguments," said Mrs. Hughes. "The vice president said today he wants the process to arrive at a 'fair, expeditious and truly democratic conclusion.' As people across America are realizing, it already has."
The president-elect maintained a low profile yesterday, not stopping to talk to reporters as he left the Capitol in late morning.
"We'll keep you posted," he called out to reporters.
Mr. Bush and his wife, Laura, left Austin last night for their "Prairie Chapel" ranch at Crawford, Texas, about 90 miles north of the state capital. Mr. Bush plans to remain there the rest of the week and host Mr. Cheney and his wife, Lynne, for further transition planning.
"It's a tranquil place where it's easy to do some thinking," Mrs. Hughes said.
As Mr. Bush sought a quiet haven, aides talked openly about the unusual possibility of including some Democrats in the new administration.
Just how an infusion of Democrats in Mr. Bush's administration would affect his conservative agenda is not clear. Mr. Card said yesterday that Mr. Bush's top priority out of the gate will be education, a policy area in which Mr. Bush has promoted school choice and mandatory state testing to weed out poor-performing public schools.
One Democrat mentioned frequently is former Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia as a contender for defense secretary. A source close to the Bush camp also said yesterday that Mr. Bush might choose a conservative Southern Democrat such as Rep. Ralph M. Hall of Texas to lead the Energy Department, and that he would likely tap an agriculture secretary from the ranks of Southern Democrats as well.
Mr. Card said yesterday a bipartisan administration is a necessary result of the election that saw Democrats gain one seat in the House and four in the Senate.
"We have a responsibility to get ready to govern this country," Mr. Card said yesterday on CNN. "It won't be easy because of the election results. The election was unusually close, and Congress is unusually close, and it is balanced between Republicans and Democrats. Governor Bush has a history of being able to work with Democrats, as well as Republicans, to make things happen constructively, and he wants to do that.
"He is going to be very deliberate in talking to people and understanding what kind of government there should be working with a divided Congress, but no decisions have been made yet," said Mr. Card. "Governor Bush will do what is best for America and I don't think you're going to put any number or quota to it. He had Democrats serving in his administration in Texas as well as Republicans, and he did a great job leading Texas and I think you can expect him to do the same thing in leading the country."
But even the expected appointments such as retired Gen. Colin Powell for secretary of state will apparently wait until legal challenges to the elections are resolved.
The Bush team also put as much pressure as possible on Mr. Gore yesterday, making an effort not to sound presumptuous, to give up his court fight. They emphasized again that the uncertainty is hampering the transition to the Republican administration.
"I clearly believe, as do a great many Americans now, according to the polls, that it's time to wrap this up," Mr. Cheney said. "To stretch it out, as Vice President Gore is doing … is really unprecedented and it's going to create some problems.
"It begins to affect in ways that may not be observable for six months or 12 months even," Mr. Cheney said. "It affects the quality of the people you can attract. Your ability to begin to build bridges to the Congress and put together a bipartisan program. We are rapidly running out of time to put together that new administration."
Aides say the real time constraint will be in conducting FBI background checks on nominees and receiving briefings from various federal agencies on the status of programs.
Mr. Card said yesterday that his telephone conversation with Mr. Podesta was "good" and that his counterpart was cooperating.
"I think John Podesta understands that we have a daunting task ahead of us and he wants us to be ready to govern on Day One," said Mr. Card. "And so he pledged to work with us and I will be meeting with him over the course of the next several weeks."
In their conversation, Mr. Podesta also conferred with Mr. Card about getting the FBI to conduct background checks on Bush appointees.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide