Clinton's New Ethic Rules Are Tough, but Cover Few

PRESIDENT-ELECT Clinton was scheduled to unveil ethics rules yesterday for political appointees in his administration. The rules have been widely touted as the toughest ever imposed. There's just one hitch: They will apply to only a few hundred of the approximately 3,000 officials Mr. Clinton will appoint.

According to anonymous Clinton aides, the new rules will forbid top officials from lobbying their agencies for five years after leaving office and will permanently bar them from lobbying United States officials for foreign governments. Current law bans any former government employee from lobbying his former agency for one year. Top officials also are banned from lobbying Cabinet secretaries and undersecretaries or lobbying on behalf of foreign nations for one year.

The new rules will apply to Cabinet secretaries but not to most lower-ranking officials. Attorney general: only women need apply

Clinton's search for an attorney general may be virtually unprecedented. While such factors as race and gender have played an important part in selecting top appointees in the past - for example, Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Clarence Thomas - Clinton may be the first president to decide beforehand that only a woman may fill a high-ranking post. That appears to be the case, at least, with the attorney general selection process.

Top Clinton aides leaked to National Public Radio and the New York Times the news that, because feminist groups had demanded that a woman occupy at least one of the top four Cabinet positions (State, Defense, Treasury, Justice), they were considering the following women for attorney general: Judge Patricia Wald of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; Judge Amalya Kearse of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan; Judge Judith Kaye of the New York Court of Appeals; and Brooksley Bor n, a partner in the Washington law firm of Arnold & Porter.

It would be interesting to find out what Vernon Jordan, who is Clinton's transition director, really thinks of the selection process. Mr. Jordan was mentioned previously as a top contender for the Justice post. But being of the wrong gender, he seems to have fallen out of consideration. Another `foreign policy' president?

"I believe our administration will be forced to spend a lot of time on foreign policy whether we want to or not," Clinton said Tuesday. For a candidate who won office by focusing almost exclusively on domestic affairs, that must have been a galling, if unavoidable, admission.

But the world has changed significantly since the Nov. 3 election: The US economy is picking up, while tens of thousands of US soldiers are wading ashore in Somalia. The commitment in East Africa promises to occupy much of the Clinton administration's attention, at least early on. President Bush has won widespread approval both at home and around the world for sending in the Marines. But he will probably leave to his successor the far tougher decision: when to pull the US soldiers out. No matter when tha t decision is made, it will be criticized by some as being too soon. If mass starvation and anarchy follow the US departure, Clinton will get much of the blame. Such considerations do tend to focus a president's attention on foreign affairs. The travails of high office

Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D) of Texas may find that becoming Treasury secretary is no bed of roses. First, he will have to take a considerable pay cut. A provision of the Constitution forbids members of Congress from seeking higher-paying federal jobs during their terms of office. Therefore, Senator Bentsen's pay will drop from $129,500 to $99,500 - the salary of Cabinet officers when his current Senate term began in 1989. Second, media attention is again focusing on Bentsen's membership in a Houston club that

has no black members. The Texan had resigned from the River Oaks Country Club, along with several other clubs, during his run for vice president in 1988, but he renewed his memberships shortly thereafter.

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