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Friday, 12 January, 2001, 07:33 GMT
Bush's big guns
Bush's team
Powell, Rumsfeld and Cheney: A complicated dynamic?
By US affairs analyst Gordon Corera

President Bush has put together a formidable team with a high level of experience and managerial skill.

The emphasis is on people with business experience and those from outside Washington.

This is in marked contrast to Bill Clinton, who in 1992 took his time and ran a notoriously bad transition that helped make the president's first 100 days in office among the worst on record.

Linda Chavez
Linda Chavez: Stepped aside
On the surface, the impression of the Bush team is of unprecedented diversity - the gender and racial spread is wider even than that of Mr Clinton's first cabinet, which Clinton had promised would "look like America".

Controversial

But in political terms, the picture is somewhat more complex, with some potential pitfalls ahead for the new president.

There have been some choices from the left of the Republican party - such as Christine Todd Whitman for the Environmental Protection Agency and even a Democrat Norman Mineta, who is also an Asian American, as transportation secretary.

But both of these are essentially minor positions, and in the heavyweight jobs, Bush's cabinet has a more conservative bent.

John Ashcroft for attorney general and Gale Norton for interior are likely to arouse considerable opposition from Democrats and liberal interest groups - as did Linda Chavez, who stepped aside as nominee for labour secretary after facing allegations that she had provided a home for an illegal immigrant.

Karen Hughes
Karen Hughes: Part of a trio that will wield the real power
They see them as having conservative views and are concerned about their possible impact on issues such as affirmative action and environmental policy.

Conflict

In the field of national security - the area where Mr Bush has least experience - the new president has had experience rather than politics, uppermost in his deliberations.

Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld are both veterans, and the team is likely to be beefed up by the influence of Vice-President, and former Defence Secretary, Dick Cheney.

One of the most interesting questions will be who really ends up in charge.

Ronald Regan
There are some faces familiar from the days of Ronald Regan
The dynamic between these three - as well as the more junior National Security Adviser, Condoleeza Rice - in advising the president could be complicated, with Mr Bush being put in a difficult position if they disagree.

Mr Powell, Mr Cheney and others are all also veterans of Mr Bush's father's administration and a surprising number of others are faces familiar from the days of Ronald Reagan and even Gerald Ford in the 1970s.

Day-to-day affairs

This seems to confirm Bush's much-talked-about emphasis on loyalty.

Just as important as the cabinet is the White House staff.

Three people - Andrew Card, a veteran of Bush Snr, Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, who are both Bush Texan loyalists - will run operations and be the real power.

They will probably dictate policy to the cabinet on everything except foreign affairs and defence.

Thanks to his role in running the transition, people are already talking about Dick Cheney as a virtual prime minister, running day-to-day government, dealing with Congress and leaving the president to set broad objectives.

If this is the case then Cheney will easily be the most influential vice-president in history, even exceeding the role of Al Gore and cementing a major change in the office.

Altogether the Bush team - and the structure he has put in place - looks innovative and assured.

Whether it works so well in practice and under pressure will be the real test.

See also:

04 Jan 01 | Americas
Press gives Bush high marks
08 Jan 01 | Americas
US voting under scrutiny
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