Bush likely to name Powell to cabinet Saturday


Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas – President-elect Bush said he would make his first Cabinet announcement on Saturday and hinted strongly that it would be retired Gen. Colin Powell as secretary of state. But the Cabinet won’t include a moderate Democratic senator Bush met today.

Bush would not say if he had made a job offer to Louisiana Sen. John Breaux, but told reporters the Democrat did not want to leave the divided chamber.

“He wants to stay in the Senate and to work to get something done,” Bush said, the two men sitting before a crackling fire at the Texas governor’s mansion. Breaux said, “I think we certainly share the concept that we have to build coalitions.”

Bush bolstered his staff appointments, naming a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, Al Gonzales, to be his White House counsel, officials close to the process said.

Asked whether his first selection Saturday would be Powell, Bush smiled and said he wanted to make the announcement “on our own time table. I look forward to making the announcement tomorrow. I hope you come.”

He added: “I think America will be pleased with the choice.”

Republican officials close to Bush said Powell, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, would be the single announcement made Saturday at the Texas governor’s ranch. Powell is a popular figure and many Republicans had wanted him to run for the White House.

Later, Bush was expected to designate Stanford University’s Condoleezza Rice as his national security adviser. The third major national security position, defense secretary, seemed less certain. One name floated by Republicans close to Bush was former Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind.

Bush said he had completed work on assembling a White House staff. However, it was not clear when the names would be announced.

Bush, in his first meeting with reporters since becoming president-elect on Wednesday, said he was “grateful and humbled by the opportunity” to serve. He said the enormity of the fact that he was headed to the White House didn’t completely sink in until the next morning when he began getting phone calls from foreign leaders.

“I didn’t sleep well” the night after rival Al Gore’s concession and Bush’s own speech to the nation, he said. “I felt Vice President Gore was most gracious in his comments. He gave a really good speech. I’ll let others judge the quality of mine.”

The speculation had been that Breaux might be tapped for energy secretary. Bringing him into the Cabinet would have probably pushed the Democrats back into a minority in the incoming Senate, split 50-50.

Bush said it was important to have Breaux in the Senate because he would be helpful in building coalitions. He called Breaux, who is known for his work on Medicare reform, a Democrat he could work with.

Asked whether he had other Democrats in mind for his administration, Bush said, “I’m thinking about a variety of folks to serve in the Cabinet.”

Bush said he had seen reports that House Speaker Dennis Hastert called the Texas governor’s $1.3 trillion tax cut proposal too large, but, “I look forward to going to Washington to make the case” for it.

Aides said Bush’s meeting with Breaux underscored his desire to reach across party lines in assembling an administration.

As for Bush’s administration staff, Gonzales has told court associates that he had been offered the job of White House counsel and had accepted it, Republican officials close to the process said today.

“I’ve had discussions with the Governor about working in Washington but any final decision and any announcement of that decision will have to come from him,” said Gonzales, who wouldn’t confirm he got the job.

Gonzales, 45, was the second Hispanic to serve on the Texas Supreme Court. Before Bush appointed him to the high court, he served as secretary of state and as the Texas governor’s staff general counsel.

Meanwhile, a senior Bush transition official said today that as the president-elect ponders a choice for Treasury secretary, he won’t limit himself to Wall Street.

Recent speculation has focused on three from Wall Street: Walter Shipley, retired chairman of Chase Manhattan; John Hennessy, former CEO of Credit Suisse First Boston; and Donald Marron, chairman of PaineWebber.

But, the official, briefing on the condition of anonymity, said, “President-elect Bush’s approach is to look at a number of places. We’re looking at Wall Street. We’re looking at the Hill. We’re looking at think tanks … We’re looking at Wall Street, but it’s certainly not limited to Wall Street.”

Among non-Wall Street names that have been floated: economist Lawrence Lindsey and Rep. Bill Archer, the retiring chairman of House Ways and Means Committee.

Another possibility being pressed in some quarters is to keep incumbent Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers to appease Democrats. However, Summers had been highly critical of Bush’s tax-cut plan.

Congratulatory calls from foreign leaders and prominent Americans kept pouring in, aides said, including calls today from the leaders of Japan and Australia.

On Thursday, he worked the phones, including speaking with former President Jimmy Carter and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson.

Bush promised to meet with Jackson to discuss measures to prevent minorities from being disadvantaged at polling places, as Jackson and others have said happened in some Florida precincts.

Jackson, appearing today on NBC’s “Today,” said of Bush: “It is his burden to bring some closure to that in some fair and open way.”

Jackson said demonstrations protesting “the chaos and the debacle in Florida” would take place Jan. 15, the legal holiday celebrating the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

Bush was traveling to Washington early next week. His visit will include separate meetings with both Clinton and election rival Al Gore.

Meanwhile, Michigan Gov. John Engler, another Republican who has been mentioned as a possible Cabinet candidate, showed up at Bush transition headquarters in suburban Washington.

Engler told reporters, “I’m just a volunteer … whatever I can do to help. … They are facing a daunting amount of work to do.” As to a role in the Bush administration, Engler said, “Being governor of Michigan is a terrific job..I haven’t been looking for something (else).”

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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