- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 4, 2001

In rounding out his Cabinet on Tuesday with the appointment of the secretaries of transportation, energy and labor, President-elect George W. Bush called his cumulative choices "one of the strongest [Cabinets] that any president has been ever able to assemble."

In doing so he has made plenty of room in the Republican "tent" for both philosophical and racial variety. It includes, for example, those who defend racial preferences such as Colin Powell and those who uphold abortion rights such as Christie Todd Whitman. In his latest round of appointments he added a bipartisan touch to his Cabinet. After Louisiana Sen. John Breaux and other Democrats rejected overtures from Mr. Bush to join his administration, the president-elect finally succeeded in convincing at least one Democrat Norman Mineta, a former California congressman who is now secretary of commerce but who will head the Department of Transportation under Mr. Bush to join his Cabinet.

Yet, when all is said and done, Mr. Bush has put together an unmistakably conservative Cabinet. Social conservatives, who proved themselves to be one of the largest and most indispensable contributors to Mr. Bush's presidential victory, were rewarded with the three Cabinet departments they coveted the most. Mr. Bush nominated former Sen. John Ashcroft, one of the party's strongest conservatives, to be attorney general. Wisconsin's staunchly pro-life governor Tommy Thompson, who spearheaded the nation's welfare-reform movement, will become secretary of health and human services. For secretary of labor, Mr. Bush named Linda Chavez, a former official in the Reagan administration who opposes affirmative action and bilingual education and supports government programs that promote Latino assimilation. Conservatives were also happy with Rod Paige, the Houston school superintendent and proponent of accountability whom Mr. Bush selected as his secretary of education.

With Mr. Cheney, Mr. Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, who will become secretary of defense, and national security adviser-designate Condoleezza Rice advising Mr. Bush on foreign policy and national security issues, the priorities of the United States will change from ill-advised, attention-diverting, "nation-building" schemes to a determined effort to protect the nation and its allies from the growing threat posed by rogue nations acquiring weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them by long-range missiles.

On the domestic-policy front, conservatives were especially happy about the appointment of Mitch Daniels to be director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). A former political director under President Reagan who later became the head of the conservative Hudson Institute think tank, Mr. Daniels has impeccable conservative credentials, unlike David Stockman and Richard Darman, who headed OMB during previous Republican administrations. Meanwhile, property rights advocates were absolutely ecstatic over the nomination of former Colorado attorney general Gale Norton, to be secretary of the interior. Needless to say, Secretary of Energy-designate Spencer Abraham, the former senator from Michigan and the son of an auto worker, will bring those welcome perspectives to his department.

It's a Cabinet that has much to offer Mr. Bush, and this country, as he prepares to take the reins of government in the days to come.

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