- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 4, 2001

The kind of Cabinet nominees George W. Bush has chosen tell us a lot about how he will make decisions, how he will govern, and how committed he will be to the reform agenda he ran on.

Mr. Bush has by and large picked people with extensive experience, both in and out of government, people who have proven track records as managers and, most notably, people who have stature in their respective fields.

These were certainly the common denominators in his choice of Richard Cheney to be his vice president, the man he has heavily relied on to put his Cabinet together and who may be the most experienced vice president ever to hold that office.

Perhaps the most interesting characteristic of his top picks is that they are people with strong convictions who are not shrinking violets, who will fight hard for what they believe. To his credit, Mr. Bush has picked people who know more than he does in the fields for which they have been chosen.

That says a lot about Mr. Bush's self-confidence and his eagerness to share the credit for whatever accomplishments his administration may achieve over the next four years.

In sharp contrast to Bill Clinton, who had to make virtually every policy announcement himself, no matter how minuscule, Mr. Bush will chart the big policies but will give his subordinates a lot of freedom to promote, explain and implement them.

It is going to take the national news media some time to get used to this less-intrusive, delegating management style. We will see Cabinet members and other top administration officials before the cameras nearly as much and sometimes more than Mr. Bush himself.

Nowhere is direct, hands-on experience and stature more important than in national security, which is the first and most important responsibility of our national government. And Mr. Bush has chosen a team that has these qualities in abundance.

Colin Powell steps into his new role as secretary of state with vast experience as White House national security adviser and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who, with Mr. Cheney at Defense, ran the Persian Gulf war that kicked Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Condoleezza Rice will be Mr. Bush's national security adviser in the White House. A Russia specialist who was a foreign-policy adviser in the previous Bush administration and provost at Stanford University, she brings her own high-energy credentials.

Rounding out the team in the role of defense secretary is Donald Rumsfeld, who held that post under Gerald Ford and returns to the job at the age of 68, after a career as a corporate executive in the Fortune 500 world. Mr. Rumsfeld not only knows how to take charge of a $300 billion-a-year organization, but he also has the political skills that he will need to negotiate through a minefield of competing military services.

Especially important, no one knows more about anti-missile technology than Mr. Rumsfeld, who is charged with developing and implementing Ronald Reagan's strategic-defense vision that Mr. Bush has made his No. 1 defense priority.

Mr. Bush also wants someone at Defense who can help him to rebuild the shattered morale of the Clinton years. He rejected former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, who had little administrative experience, because he told advisers he did not think Mr. Coats had the stature or personality to do that. Mr. Rumsfeld, who had presidential ambitions of his own, has the charisma and skills that are necessary to inspire and to lead.

On domestic policy, where the bulk of Mr. Bush's agenda rests, he has chosen an arch-reformer in Gov. Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin to be secretary of health and human services. Mr. Thompson, the longest-serving governor in the country, aggressively pioneered welfare reform before it was politically popular, and created the most expansive school-choice program in the country.

Again, Mr. Bush not only chose someone strong on policy issues he cares about Mr. Thompson has expanded health-care options and prescription-drug benefits for the needy but also someone with vast administrative and political experience who knows how to run a government, not to mention a federal department. As chairman of the governors association, Mr. Thompson has spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill lobbying lawmakers to give states more freedom to innovate with federal dollars. That talent is going to serve Mr. Bush well in getting his agenda through Congress.

Liberals are already gunning to shoot down Mr. Bush's choice for attorney general, Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft perhaps Mr. Bush's most conservative choice. But even Mr. Ashcroft's critics in the Senate speak highly of his unassailable integrity. He will sail through with a lot of Democratic votes.

These and other choices by Mr. Bush also tell us he is heeding President John F. Kennedy's axiom that even if you win an election by a single vote, it is still a mandate for change. He has no intention of pulling back on his core agenda.

Equally important, because his major Cabinet nominees are high-stature, strong-willed people who have substantial government experience, Mr. Bush is saying he will be a CEO who will set policy priorities and then get out of the way; that the government will not be micromanaged from the White House based on the latest polls; that he expects his department and agency heads to wield power to reform, move and reorder bureaucracies and to bring about needed change.

Like Ronald Reagan, Mr. Bush believes you can get a lot more done if you don't care who gets the credit.

That will be a refreshing and needed change after eight years of a White House-centered, ego-driven presidency that had to be in the spotlight all of the time.


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