Clinton Transition Team Takes on Pragmatic Cast
ALTHOUGH no Cabinet members or White House staffers have been named yet, the team that will shape President-elect Clinton's administration is filling out and beginning to show the character of his choices.Skip to next paragraph
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During the past week, Mr. Clinton has named nine people who will coordinate the takeover of the government by issues and agencies. These are the latest additions to the roster of names Clinton is drawing on for ideas, talent, and some symbolism in his transition to power.
They range from the Hispanic former mayor of Denver to the African-American investment banker who is vice chairman of the Federal National Mortgage Association to the California physicist who was the first American woman in space.
The team is highly mixed between Washington insiders and outsiders, between liberals and moderates, and among ethnic groups and genders. Outside the Beltway, too
Clinton, wary of the anti-Washington missteps of the early Carter administration, has brought experienced Washington hands on board. But he is also visibly recruiting practical politicians who have succeeded in state and municipal government.
Federico Pena, for example, in 10 years as mayor of Denver, oversaw construction of the world's largest airport and shepherded through hundreds of millions of dollars of bond issues for roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. Mr. Pena will coordinate the transition on transportation issues.
Pena is "an outsider who will bring fresh perspective," says John Cogan, a Hoover Institution fellow who served in the Office of Management and Budget in the Reagan administration and in the Reagan and Bush transitions.
Clinton also reached beyond Washington in choosing former South Carolina Gov. Richard Riley to staff the Cabinet departments, in consultation with the yet-unnamed Cabinet secretaries. Mr. Riley made a national reputation among governors in the mid-1980s for reforming backward education and health services. But he is not very well known in Washington circles, and he brings a non-Washington viewpoint.
The latest round of Clinton appointments has drawn approval from Republican and Democratic observers for the choice of highly knowledgeable, rather than politically connected, people.
"All these people are, from what I know about them, serious people," says Alan Morrison, director of litigation at Public Citizen, a liberal advocacy group. "They're not just political people."
"It's an impressive group," Mr. Cogan says.
Many of them are known more for their practical knowledge than their ideologies. Former astronaut Sally Ride, for example, who will coordinate science, space, and technology issues, does not work in a very partisan field.
The group does include some strong traditional liberals. One is Rep. Thomas Downey (D) of New York. Just defeated for reelection, Mr. Downey will coordinate health, welfare, and housing for the transition.
In Congress, he was one of the most respected members for his knowledge of the welfare issue, but he has also been a highly partisan liberal advocate.
Another liberal is Peter Edelman, a constitutional law professor at Georgetown University law school and former aide to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. His wife is chairman of the Children's Defense Fund, of which Hillary Clinton is a longtime board member. Mr. Edelman will coordinate justice and civil rights issues in the transition.
Centrists are in key positions as well. For example, both Downey and Edelman will work under Al From, who is the transition's assistant director for domestic issues. Mr. From is director of the Democratic Leadership Council, a group founded in 1985 to shift the Democratic Party to the right. `All-American' team
Clinton has pointedly included women as well as men, and people of different ethnic backgrounds, so his appointments "look like America." The 10 latest appointments include one black woman, two blacks overall, three women overall, one Latino, and only five non-Hispanic white males. The group represents a "wide diversity," says Clinton spokesman Jeff Eller, who notes that its members come from across the country.
It also includes two from what may be the most overrepresented group in the Clinton transition: Rhodes scholars.
Some transitions teams are far more influential than others on the administrations that follow. Ronald Reagan's transition team was very influential and George Bush's was not, Cogan says. Mr. Bush began naming Cabinet members early, and they largely bypassed the work of the transition team. Mr. Reagan, on the other hand, appointed a more prominent and powerful transition team.
Clinton, so far, appears to be closer to the Reagan model, and that may be no coincidence. The Clinton team admires the way Reagan set the agenda during his first year in office.