Thursday, January 4, 2001

‘Two thumbs up’

David A. Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, gave “two thumbs up” yesterday for George W. Bush’s Cabinet selections.

“Conservatives everywhere can be proud of this president-elect, and should unite behind the team he has assembled,” Mr. Keene said in a prepared statement.

“Even those Cabinet picks who cannot be described as staunch conservatives will be charged with carrying out the agenda laid out by Governor Bush during the campaign. I believe that they can be counted on to do so.”

Mr. Keene added: “President-elect Bush has given every indication that he has no plans to deviate from the conservative agenda he laid out during his campaign.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times echoed Mr. Keene’s analysis without sharing his sentiments.

Mr. Bush’s final three choices for the Cabinet reinforce two emerging characteristics of that body, the newspaper said in an editorial “its essential conservative cast and its fealty to the major themes of his campaign.”

The selections of Spencer Abraham to be energy secretary, Linda Chavez to be labor secretary and Norman Y. Mineta to be transportation secretary broaden the new Cabinet’s ethnic diversity, the newspaper said. “What they do not add is significant ideological diversity.”

To tell the truth

“With the crew that made Bork a verb now lining up to oppose John Ashcroft as attorney general, you have to wonder precisely what lies are coming,” the Wall Street Journal says.

“Will we have a replay of Teddy Kennedy’s Senate speech on Robert Bork’s nomination, saying that ‘Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids …’? Will some Anita Hill be pulled out of a hat to charge, say, that Sen. Ashcroft broke his pledge that he does not drink, smoke or dance?” the newspaper asked in an editorial.

“The early distortions have already started. The Web site, devoted to second-guessing the New York Times, nailed the gray lady for quoting Ashcroft rhetoric depicting the gruesomeness of partial birth abortion as if it applied to all abortions… .”

To tell the truth II

“The AFL-CIO’s John Sweeney already has resorted to lying” about the record of Labor Secretary-designee Linda Chavez, John J. Miller and Ramesh Ponnuru write at

Mr. Sweeney, in a prepared statement, said, “She is a strenuous foe of anti-discrimination measures, including affirmative action.”

Said Mr. Miller and Mr. Ponnuru: “It is true that Chavez opposes racial quotas and preferences. But it is a bald-faced lie to say she does not support ‘anti-discrimination measures.’ Throughout her career, she has made a habit of saying she believes in strong anti-discrimination laws. She did it again [Tuesday] during her remarks in Austin: ‘I intend to vigorously enforce the department’s regulations to guarantee nondiscrimination by federal contractors.’ “

Hat in hand

Defense Secretary-nominee Donald H. Rumsfeld is taking nothing for granted, despite the unanimous praise his nomination generated last week.

Mr. Rumsfeld, President-elect George W. Bush’s choice to lead the Pentagon, made a round of calls on key senators yesterday and is expected to return again today.

“Mr. Rumsfeld came to these calls with his hat in his hand, seeking sincere advice,” spokesman Jim Wilkinson said.

Mr. Rumsfeld is likely to sail through his confirmation hearing expected to be held before the Jan. 20 inauguration of Mr. Bush and be confirmed easily by the full Senate. Mr. Rumsfeld has a long and distinguished record in Washington, including a stint as defense secretary in the Ford administration, and is widely respected on both sides of the aisle.

But Mr. Rumsfeld, an experienced hand with Washington politics, is “taking nothing for granted,” Mr. Wilkinson said.

He met yesterday with Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner of Virginia and other key committee Republicans. He met informally with the committee’s senior Democrat, Carl Levin of Michigan, and is expected to meet with him again today. He will meet with other committee Democrats today as well.

Mr. Rumsfeld himself declined to comment on the meetings.

A do-nothing president

“The Clinton paradox is this: Rarely has a president so dominated the public stage and so little affected the public agenda,” columnist Robert J. Samuelson writes in The Washington Post.

“His central failure lay not in what he did which wasn’t much but in what he deliberately avoided. As the first baby boomer president, he had a historic opportunity to prepare for his own generation’s retirement. The task was to redraw the political compact between workers and retirees by modernizing Social Security and Medicare. Clinton didn’t try, and worse, he consistently obstructed others in both parties who did.”

Mr. Samuelson added: “The reason impeachment and Lewinsky loom so large in the Clinton era is that there was so little else. He engaged, entertained and enraged. He was full of himself and full of talk. He had an amazing ability to outmaneuver his adversaries and gain short-term political advantage. But all the noise and action merely highlight the larger contradiction. He was always on the move but rarely going anywhere. He was mostly a do-nothing president.”

Drug laws denounced

New York Gov. George Pataki used his seventh annual State of the State address yesterday to urge legislation to dramatically reform the state’s tough Rockefeller drug laws.

The laws, enacted in the 1970s during the administration of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, are among the harshest in the nation and can require life terms for even the possession of relatively small amounts of narcotics.

“However well-intentioned, key aspects of those laws are out of step with both the times and the complexities of drug addiction,” the Republican governor said.

Nonetheless, Mr. Pataki offered no details of what his proposal would include, the Associated Press reports. He said he would provide details in the coming weeks.

Jeb’s new aides

Kathleen Shanahan, who was Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney’s top staffer during the presidential campaign, will be Gov. Jeb Bush’s new chief of staff, Mr. Bush said yesterday.

Miss Shanahan, 41, worked as a special assistant to the governor’s father, former President George Bush, from 1985 to 1989, during the time he was vice president, the Associated Press reports.

Also starting work in Jeb Bush’s office is Charles Canady, who becomes general counsel, the top lawyer in the governor’s office. Mr. Canady, 46, was a member of Congress until this week. He decided not to seek re-election after eight years there, citing his support for term limits.

False report

The incoming Bush administration yesterday dismissed reports it planned to appoint Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, one of the most controversial figures of election year 2000, to the post of special envoy to the Americas, Reuters reports.

“It’s news to us,” Bush transition spokeswoman Juleanna Glover Weiss said of news reports of the possible appointment. She declined further comment.

A report in The Washington Post that Mr. Bush might tap Mrs. Harris for the senior foreign policy post, which focuses largely on U.S.-Latin American economic and trade affairs, drew fire on Capitol Hill. Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers Jr. said it smacked of “cronyism.”

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