- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Sen. John Cornyn was ex-Texas Gov. George W. Bush's state attorney general who, like "Dubya," won three statewide victories as a Republican office-seeker before coming to Washington.
Like Mr. Bush, Texas' new junior senator marched across America's second-largest state in cowboy boots on a libertarian-conservative platform promising to help "those most vulnerable" in society.
He's perhaps the only freshman member of Congress who could get the president on the phone.
"Well, I think I can get through to him I probably can," said the courtly 50-year-old former Texas Supreme Court justice, who exudes thoughtful caution and Southern courtesy.
But in a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Times, he downplayed his access to the head of the Free World.
"I'll call [Chief of Staff] Andy Card and tell him that I think it's important. But I understand, too, that the president's a very busy man, and I would be one of the last people to encroach upon his time for trivial purposes."
Mr. Cornyn's long relationship with "Dubya" involved personal meetings as Texas attorney general, biweekly or more often, throughout Mr. Bush's second term as governor from 1998 to 2000. Close friends also include all of the president's inner circle of top White House advisers from Texas political director Karl Rove; deputy chief of staff and policy czar Josh Bolten; presidential personnel director Clay Johnson; and others.
The tall candidate with trademark white hair won the Senate race handily with 55.3 percent of the vote, beating Ron Kirk, former Democratic mayor of Dallas, by 540,485 votes.
Mr. Cornyn said he and the president are of one mind on most matters. His first priority as new junior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee was the confirmation of a former Texas Supreme Court colleague, Justice Priscilla Owen, to the federal appeals court. Senate Democrats, then the majority, had blocked her confirmation last year.
"Justice Owen is one of the most diligent and intelligent judges serving on the bench today and would make a great addition to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals," he said.
Mr. Cornyn, who succeeded retired Sen. Phil Gramm, also Republican, says he is a "compassionate conservative" in the mold of former President Ronald Reagan and Mr. Bush.
Asked for his most important priority as senator in his six-year term, he said: "Job No. 1 is protecting our freedoms, and to me that can be subdivided into a number of areas that could be maintaining a strong national security, protecting our country and our citizens."
Mr. Gramm, a 20-year congressional veteran and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, resigned on Dec. 2 so Mr. Cornyn could be sworn in early and get that committee appointment. He also serves on the Environment and Public Works and Budget Committees.
"I'm interested in working on [military] transformation issues, and by that I mean we are fighting a new kind of war against a new kind of enemy, and I think that will lead to a new type of military force one that's more flexible, more mobile, one that allows us to fight in places, perhaps, and in ways that we've never fought before," Mr. Cornyn said.
The goal envisions consolidating the Army and Marines, and separately the air missions of the Air Force, Navy, and Marines, he said.
Mr. Cornyn said he's undeterred by potential resistance of the defense establishment to consolidation of the military services.
"Now we're fighting a war against, in many ways, a nameless, faceless terror threat that requires us to be responsive in a different kind of way," he said. "So I would like to do everything I can on Armed Services to help transform our military for the new type of challenge we have in our national security."


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