Fri, Nov 05, 2004 - Page 4 News List

US Election: Hawks set their sights on Cabinet posts

SECOND TERM While few expect Bush to make major changes to his Cabinet line-up, a few positions may open up -- for example in the state and defense departments


There are no great expectations in Washington that a second-term Bush administration will have a radically different complexion from the first term. US President George W. Bush values loyalty and prefers to stick to a tried and tested team.

However, after four years in office, much of it at war, some of his Cabinet are anxious to move on, and the president will not be able to avoid making some changes.

"The recent history of second terms is not very promising in terms of bold policy initiatives," said Calvin Mackenzie, a professor of government at Colby College in Maine. "But there are a lot of people in this administration who now see an opportunity to go make a lot of money in the private sector, and have been on a government salary for much longer than they would want to be."

However, this is not the only motivating factor. Old age and policy differences also play a part, and the president usually has the final say. If he tells his Cabinet it is their duty to stay on at a time of war, it will be hard for them to refuse.

The big name most likely to leave is Colin Powell. His office has made it clear for more than two years that he does not plan to stay on long into a second term. Powell has spent the first term at odds with the far more powerful hawks led by vice-president Dick Cheney, particularly over Iraq. He clearly does not have a warm relationship with the president.

If Powell insists on quitting, it could be a difficult job to fill. Richard Armitage, his deputy, is a possible replacement, but he has had an abrasive relationship with the administration hawks and may leave along with his boss.

Opinions in Washington are divided on whether Powell's nemesis at the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld, might also step down at the age of 72.

Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, has mentioned her desire to return to academia, but would find it difficult to turn down the chance she covets: to become the first female or African American defense secretary.

A national security reshuffle would also raise questions over the future of the neo-conservative deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz. If he is made either defense secretary, secretary of state or national security adviser, it would signal an even more ambitious, aggressive foreign policy agenda.

John Ashcroft, the controversial attorney-general, is the man to watch. He is a divisive figure even within Republican ranks -- an icon among Christian conservatives, but unpopular among moderates. Whether he stays or goes could say a lot about the new administration.

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