Sat, Nov 11, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Bush looks to his father's friends again for advice


Once again, US President George W. Bush has reached back to a veteran of his father's administration to fill a top national security post and help him out of a bind.

In this case, he enlisted Robert Gates, who served both as CIA director and deputy national security adviser in his father's presidency, to replace Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense.

Bush also is looking to another Bush family loyalist, former secretary of state James Baker, to help him find an exit strategy from Iraq. Baker co-chairs a bipartisan commission on Iraq that is to release its recommendations soon.

Bush said Gates would help provide a "new direction" for the Pentagon, and should be able to work with the new Democratic Congress. Gates, 63, now president of Texas A&M University, has held national security jobs in both Democratic and Republican administrations.

While trying to avoid mistakes made by his one-term father, Bush has shown no reluctance in enlisting senior members of dad's old team to help him with some heavy lifting.

Much of Bush's top national security team -- both in his first and second terms -- worked in his father's administration or that of previous Republican presidents.

Vice President Dick Cheney was his father's defense secretary. Former secretary of state Colin Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the first Bush administration. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was a national security aide in the first Bush White House, and UN Ambassador John Bolton worked in the State Department in the Ronald Reagan and first Bush administrations.

"I think it's logical to go to experienced people from your own party -- in this case, people the president knows real well," said Charles Black, a Republican consultant close to the White House.

Rumsfeld was not in the elder Bush's circle and advocated a more aggressive course on Iraq. He first served as defense secretary for president Gerald Ford.

The president had turned to Baker even before arriving at the White House, choosing him to represent the Republican side in the 2000 presidential recount in Florida.

The Iraq panel, which Baker co-chairs with former Democratic representative Lee Hamilton, will soon make recommendations on a future course for US policy in Iraq. Gates is a member of the panel.

Baker has indicated the recommendations will fall somewhere between the "cut and run" strategy that Republicans like to say Democrats advocate, and the "stay the course" policy until recently enunciated by the president and widely ridiculed by Democrats.

Stansfield Turner, who was CIA chief in the Carter administration, called Gates "an excellent choice, a lower-key fellow ... a little more classy."

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