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Clinton's Team

November 9, 1992



THE nation is watching closely as President-elect Clinton prepares to name the men and women who will occupy the top jobs in his administration. Speculation is rife in the capital and in newsrooms around the country about who will become Washington's new stars.

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Obviously, Mr. Clinton hopes to get the best possible people into the right jobs on his White House staff and in the executive departments. But "best" has to be measured by several criteria.

Certainly, appointees must be qualified for the positions they will fill; hacks and cronies need not apply. But other factors come into play as well. Besides the generally white male Rhodes scholars and other "FOBs" (Friends of Bill) who will be tapped for the administration, Clinton must also bring in a substantial number of women, blacks, and Hispanics. His newly formed transition team, led by prominent civil rights figure Vernon Jordan, indicates a commitment to diversity.

Clinton also needs to ensure that his circle of advisers includes outspoken people with a range of viewpoints. Like all presidents, he must be sure to avoid being isolated by like-minded aides who screen out opinions they find incompatible with their own.

In at least two respects, Clinton should emulate President Bush's personnel policies and practices. First, the Bush administration has been notably devoid of the kinds of ethical lapses often called "sleaze." It remains to be seen whether Bush administration officials engaged in serious misconduct in Iraqgate; but at least Bush largely fulfilled his vow to prohibit the conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and self-indulgent misuse of official perks that arose during the Reagan and earlier administr ations. When it was disclosed that former White House chief of staff John Sununu had frequently used government planes for personal travel, he was quickly required to make restitution. Like Bush, Clinton should designate a hard-nosed White House lawyer to monitor ethics.

Second, Clinton should try to avoid the intramural fights among ambitious aides that have crippled other administrations. Bush's term saw policy squabbles among administration officials, like those between the White House and environmental chief William Reilly and housing secretary Jack Kemp. By insisting on teamwork and the subordination of personal ambitions, however, Bush curbed bruising turf battles, such as those that occurred in the past between secretaries of state and national security advisers.

With all the challenges that await the Clinton administration, it cannot afford palace intrigues among officials whose sole objectives should be to serve their president and their country.