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"It's his program, his agenda, and we have no intention at all of backing off." Related Gully Coverage

If Bush Wins Who Will Be President?
Possible advisors, gurus, and more, for the man who hates to read.

U.S. Election 2000
Posturers, panderers, pretenders, and special interests.

Condoleezza Rice and George W.

President-designate Bush listens to Condoleezza Rice, left, after naming her to serve as his national security adviser. Austin, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2000. J. Scott Applewhite

Election 2000

Bush Cabinet of Color Takes Bow

by Toby Eglund

DECEMBER 18, 2000. Unless you count his appointees "of color" already arranged before the dog-and-pony show of the Republican Convention, President-designate George W. Bush has offered no conciliatory moves to woo the American people still split 50/50, with the African American and Hispanic vote large in the losing half.

Worse, VP-designate Dick Cheney parading himself on CBS's Face the Nation this past Sunday, tossed fuel on the fire by announcing their intent to press on with their conservative agenda as if Bush had been fairly elected by a thorough count of Florida votes, and not appointed by the Supreme Court.

"It's his program, his agenda, and we have no intention at all of backing off of it," said Cheney. "It's why we got elected. So we're going to aggressively pursue" it. Bush himself trumpeted that his proposed $1.3 trillion tax cut was "nonnegotiable," as some Republican congressional leaders were exhibiting the first signs of frost-bitten feet.

The duo's massive denial of political realities over the weekend may be just a P.R. move to appease their right flank. However, you never know with post-impeachment Republicans how far they're willing to go to spit in their own faces. And how little they understand the value of strategic retreat. It should then come as no surprise if the Bush cabinet, and their first 100 days in office, shape up almost exactly as if the election had been decided November 7.

Powell Engaged
General Colin PowellRetired General Colin Powell, 63, soon to be Secretary of State, was architect of the don't ask-don't tell policy hamstringing gays in the military. It may be a sign of hope that he's promised not to be an isolationist, but to continue "being engaged with the world." Given his virulent opposition to U.S. intervention in Bosnia to prevent genocide, his idea of engagement may well not include human rights.

With Powell at the helm, the cadaverous State will probably get the infusion of money and prestige it sorely needs, after decades of playing second fiddle to increasingly powerful national security advisors at the White House. Powell's reputed managerial skills could do much good there. It remains to be seen, though, how comfortable he will be with a host of crucial new security issues—environmental, political, technological—for which his long career as a gifted military bureaucrat has not prepared him.

In his acceptance speech, on Saturday, Powell sounded more like a Secretary of Defense than a future Foggy Bottom boss. The likely Powell-Cheney struggle for control of defense policy will be interesting to watch. Whichever gets his protégé appointed there will be first out of the gate. Powell is backing his friend, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, while Cheney wants the more conservative Indiana Senator Dan Coats.

Condoleezza's Rise
Condoleezza RiceCondoleezza Rice, 46, Bush's foreign affairs guru, will be national security adviser. Rice, a provost at Stanford University, was a Russian and Eastern European affairs analyst on the elder Bush's National Security Council. During the campaign, she sometimes sounded like a cross between a Cold War era bully and a pre-WWII isolationist. But intellectuals who end up in government are notoriously unpredictable. Madeleine Albright, whose father, coincidentally, trained Rice, went from dovish perennial in the old McNeil-Lehrer Report on PBS to iron lady of the Balkans in a short span of time.

With Powell at State, conventional wisdom says that Rice's post could lose some clout and revert to its original mandate, that of a glorified policy coordinator that would explain to the President the traditional bickering between State and Defense, and shield him from it. Rice's ace is her apparent closeness to Bush. If she has his ear, and if she is robustly power hungry, and not a shrinking academic violet, as some of her more coy statements imply, then the stature of the National Security Advisor will not be diminished.

Whatever happens to Condoleezza Rice—will she hold her own, quit, see her job downgraded, mess up, triumph?—will be one of the few truly significant stories of the early Bush, Jr. administration. She's not just black: she's female, however much these labels mortify her, and she's now the White House security quarterback.

The Race Card
While the African Americans Rice and Powell both like to stress their individual achievements over race, the Bush P.R. machine has put their race front and center. Rice discreetly obliges by typically following tidbits of personal information, like the fact that she "did not go to integrated schools until I was in 10th grade," with pro-Bush propaganda stating that his administration will be "inclusive."

Alberto R. GonzalesThe Hispanic on board is Alberto R. Gonzales, 45, soon to be White House counsel. Gonzales was a conservative justice of the Texas Supreme Court. Before his appointment he served as Texas' 100th Secretary of State and Senior Advisor to Governor Bush and lead liaison on Mexico and border issues.

Don't count on Gonzales to build inclusive bridges. He was often, both literally and figuratively, on opposite sides of the fences when it came to Mexico. In a 1998 dispute on a nuclear waste dump that Texas wanted to build near the border, a multi-partisan delegation of Mexican legislators accused him of "indifference" to the health and safety of Mexicans. The Mexican Senate unanimously rejected the dump, saying it violated a bilateral agreement.

Also en route to the White House is Bush spokesperson Karen Hughes, who has been named counselor to the President. Expect her to keep young Bush on a short leash, lest he put his foot irretrievably in his mouth. Amiable Andrew Card, a dyed-in-the-wool Bush family loyalist, will be the White House Chief of Staff, to the great relief of the new President's parents. Card was Secretary of Transportation in the elder Bush's administration and family factotum at large after that.

Steely hearts
The next four years may bring some moments of delicious irony if Cabinet of Color members advocate bombing third-world countries to protect oil while ignoring genocide in oil-less lands. Minority overachievers like Rice and Powell aching to be considered fully human and fully American, and not perennial wards of the liberal Democrats, may end up vying with white "compassionate conservatives" to show who has a steelier heart.

In the meantime, President-designate Bush sounded the usual Pollyannaish, pre-inaugural notes, "America has unique power and unmatched influence, and we will use them in the service of democracy, spreading peace across the world and across the years." Florida, apparently, is not part of the world.

Related links:

For CNN's Bush names Powell as choice for U.S. secretary of state.

For CNN's Exceeding expectations, Rice returns to White House in top job.

For the 1998 Press Release detailing the Mexican legislature's problem with a U.S. toxic waste dump and the "indifferent" Texas Secretary of State Gonzales. In Spanish only.

In Depth

Bush Plus
U.S. politics and the Bush administration All about George W. Bush, Dems, Greens, GOPs, and the morass of U.S. politics.

Color and Cash
race and classThe Gully's complete coverage of race and class, two intertwined pillars of American society.

New World
new worldOur Americas. Politics, democracies, failed utopias, and the sullen heirs of colonialism: from Canada to Argentina.

Gay Mundo
gay pride
The Gully's ultragay coverage. Includes musings on activism, info on queers from Guatemala to Puerto Rico and more.

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