Tuesday, November 16, 2004

President Bush has signaled that he intends to hit the ground running with an aggressive second-term agenda by replacing a majority of his first-term Cabinet with leaders more in tune with his conservative line of thinking.

“The energy level is reminiscent of first term rather than the transition of a second term,” said Michael Franc, vice president for government relations for the Heritage Foundation. “It’s hard to remember a second term as vibrant as this one is starting out.”

The White House already has announced the departure of six of Mr. Bush’s 15 Cabinet members, with at least two more resignations expected in the next few days.

Resignations announced in the two weeks since Mr. Bush was re-elected are Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Secretary of Commerce Donald L. Evans, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, Education Secretary Rod Paige and Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is expected to tender his resignation soon, and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson has long told colleagues that he intended to step aside at the end of Mr. Bush’s first term.

Most indicative of Mr. Bush’s desire to surround himself with more loyal soldiers is the departure of Mr. Powell, who often disagreed with more hawkish members of the Cabinet, particularly Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The president named as Mr. Powell’s replacement National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who has been a key foreign-policy aide to Mr. Bush since he began his 2000 presidential campaign. She was a voice urging aggressive tactics in the war on terror, regardless of the views of European allies or the United Nations.

The president’s choice to replace Mr. Ashcroft is White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, another member of the Bush inner circle since Mr. Bush was governor of Texas. Mr. Gonzales had been thought to be on the shortlist of possible Supreme Court nominees.

Mr. Bush “is building an administration that is quite capable of hitting the ground running,” said Stephen Hess, presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution. “These are all people who have been with him. Most are younger than the people they are preceding. They know very much what the president wants, and they give him the best chance to bring about those changes.”

Mr. Franc said the president’s desire to replace Cabinet secretaries with people close to him personally and politically is probably a matter of comfort and urgency for Mr. Bush.

“Having fresh blood is important,” Mr. Franc said. “There is a sense of momentum and exuberance among Republicans right now. There is a sense that this is a historic moment.”

Though many observers have expressed surprise at the quick reshuffling of the Cabinet, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said this is commonplace.

“I think that as part of the transition process to a second term, we have looked to previous administrations and how they have gone about it as part of a guide for how we are going about it,” Mr. McClellan said. “The president has the right to make decisions about who is part of his second-term team, and certainly members of the Cabinet are also looking at whether they want to continue as part of that second-term team.

“And certainly it’s, I think, a lot smoother transition when you’re moving into a second term from a first term than when you’re just coming into office,” he said.

After the 2000 election, the installation of Mr. Bush’s administration was hindered by Democrat Al Gore’s 36-day Florida recount effort.

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