PRESIDENT Clinton, in his first full day in the world's most powerful office, yesterday threw open the White House gates to more than 1,000 Americans and huddled with senior staffers on the economy.
But as the new president mixed business and old-fashioned hospitality, controversy continued to swirl around his choice for attorney general, corporate lawyer Zoe Baird, threatening to sink her nomination. The criticism followed revelations that the highly paid insurance attorney employed two illegal Peruvian immigrants as domestic workers. The United States Senate opened a second day of hearings on the Baird nomination yesterday.
On Wednesday, the Senate confirmed Warren Christopher as secretary of state, Rep. Les Aspin (D) of Wisconsin as secretary of defense, and Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D) of Texas was confirmed as secretary of the Treasury.
The three approvals came in a rapid-fire series of voice votes within three hours of the new president's signing of their nomination papers, which he did right after his own inauguration.
Other nominees slated for quick approval include: University of Wisconsin Chancellor Donna Shalala to head the Health and Human Services Department; former South Carolina Gov. Richard Riley (D) as education secretary; Harvard scholar Robert Reich as labor secretary; Rep. Mike Espy (D) of Mississippi, as agriculture secretary; Jesse Brown for veterans affairs; Rep. Leon Panetta (D) of California, to head the Office of Management and Budget; Henry Cisneros as secretary of housing and urban development, and
Hazel O'Leary as energy secretary.
S the nation saw a new commander in chief take the oath of office, a skeleton Pentagon crew kept watch yesterday on simmering or potential military crises that Clinton has inherited in Iraq, Somalia, and the former Yugoslavia.
"There was absolutely no break" in continuity as President Bush handed off to Clinton, said Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Interviewed on CNN, General Powell said any leader - apparently referring to Iraq's Saddam Hussein - who believes Clinton is not ready for the job "would be very much mistaken." Iraqi guns and missiles, which had challenged US and coalition planes in the south and north of the country for a week, had been silent. But yesterday a US jet reportedly fired on an Iraqi antiaircraft site.
ORE than 500 well-wishers, many carrying signs, flags, and balloons, greeted George and Barbara Bush as they returned to their adopted hometown of Houston yesterday as private citizens.
"It's back to the real world for the Bushes," the former president said in a welcome-home appearance. "There's a time to stay, a time to go, a time to fold 'em. Our only objective is to be good, helpful, private citizens." They are building a new home there. The Bush's three grandchildren who live in Houston had tacked up signs over the doorway and balloons along the driveway at the home where the grandparents will live temporarily.
James Baker III, outgoing White House chief of staff and former secretary of state, and several old friends and staff members were on the same flight. Mr. Baker "told a lot of jokes," said Rich Bond, the outgoing Republican national chairman.
Mr. Bush joins the exclusive club of living former US presidents: Republican Richard Nixon, Republican Gerald Ford, Democrat Jimmy Carter, and Republican Ronald Reagan.