Thu, Jan 04, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Bush finds a Democrat to round out diverse Cabinet

REUTERS , AUSTIN

US President-elect George W. Bush rounded out a Cabinet diverse in politics as well as race and gender on Tuesday by persuading a high-level Democrat to join his Republican inner circle.

Bush plucked Japanese American Norman Mineta from President Bill Clinton's Cabinet, nominating the current commerce secretary to the new post of transportation secretary in his own incoming administration.

Completing his 14-member Cabinet, Bush also announced his choices of Spencer Abraham, defeated for re-election to the Senate, to be secretary of energy; and Linda Chavez, who served as director of the civil rights commission under President Ronald Reagan, to be secretary of labor.

Bush completed his Cabinet less than a month after he became president-elect and lived up to his diversity vow.

His Cabinet nominees include two African-Americans, two Hispanics, one Asian American, one Arab American, four women -- and one Democrat. By picking Mineta, Bush ended the debate over whether he would be able to find a Democrat to serve.

"It's important to send a signal that this is an administration that recognizes talent when we see it regardless of political party," Bush said. He called his Cabinet "one of the strongest any president has been ever able to assemble."

Sources familiar with the process said a last-minute meeting between Bush and Mineta sealed a deal the president-elect's aides had spent several days trying to close.

Mineta, who made clear to reporters he was proud to be a Democrat and would remain one, told Bush he would not campaign in the 2002 mid-term Congressional elections or in the 2004 presidential election, the sources said. He also wanted a major role in choosing other transportation department officials.

A former California congressman, Mineta became the first Asian American Cabinet member last July when the Senate confirmed Clinton's nomination of him as commerce secretary.

He represented the Silicon Valley area surrounding San Jose, California, for 21 years until stepping down to work as a manager with aircraft giant Lockheed Martin in 1995.

The White House said Mineta told Clinton and Al Gore that the Bush team had contacted him about a job and that Clinton and Gore gave him their blessings.

"Over the last year, this country has witnessed a very hard-fought election, and I was proud to stand with my party," Mineta said. "I have been honored to serve in President Clinton's Cabinet as secretary of commerce. I am a Democrat, with both a small `d' and a large one."

"However, the campaign is over," he said. "And under our constitutional system, a decision has been rendered. And we are now in the essential transition period when we move from campaigning to governance."

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