IN President-elect Clinton's first string of appointments, he has sent carefully packaged messages about his administration.
He has taken care to mix these messages quickly enough and forcefully enough that no single impression can harden in the public's mind.
Thursday was the day of the deficit hawks, when he appointed his inner circle of economic policymakers. The choices made up in conventional stature, competence, and fiscal probity what they lacked in innovation.
Friday was the day of diversity and change. Mr. Clinton went out of his way to announce posts to be filled by women, even though they did not all fit his emphasis on naming his economic aides before today's big fiscal conference in Little Rock, Ark.
This round of appointments to important but second-tier Cabinet and staff posts was less conventional than the first in many ways. Mostly outsiders to the federal government, the appointees include activists and thinkers.
Two of them - Laura D'Andrea Tyson of the University of California at Berkeley as chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) and Robert Reich of Harvard University as labor secretary - are prolific authors concerned with international competitiveness. They both urge greater government activism in strengthening key industries.
The third round of appointments, on Saturday, included Clinton's first appointment of an ethnic minority. He named Democratic National Committee chairman Ron Brown, who is black, to be commerce secretary.
What is arguably the most critical post to the success of Clinton's presidency, his chief of staff, went to his oldest friend and one of the more nationally obscure members of his transition team, Thomas "Mack" McLarty, chairman and chief executive officer of Arkla Inc., a large gas company based in Shreveport, La.
Clinton met Mr. McLarty in kindergarten in Hope, Ark., and both men later became child prodigies of Arkansas politics. McLarty left politics for a fast-rising career in business, but he and Clinton have remained close allies.
The appointments of Mr. Brown and McLarty, falling on the weekend, naturally received less attention than the first two rounds, each of which presented clearer story lines for the evening television broadcasts and morning newspapers.
Earlier, Clinton had been expected to announce the appointment of Professor Tyson to the CEA chairmanship on Thursday. Instead, her appointment was put off until the next day. Whether by design or coincidence, that left a clear theme to Thursday's appointments. All of that day's appointees put a priority on holding down deficits and have extensive practical experience in government or business.
Tyson, on the other hand, is an academic without government experience who has in the past downplayed the significance of budget deficits. She will be the first woman to lead the CEA.
Four of the 11 appointments Clinton has announced so far are women. This reflects the promise that Clinton and his spokesmen may repeat more than any other these days - that his Cabinet and staff will "look like America" in terms of race and gender.
The highest ranking woman so far is Donna Shalala, the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin who has been tapped to become secretary of Health and Human Services. Alice Rivlin, a Brookings Institution economist and former director of the Congressional Budget Office, will serve as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. Carol Browner, secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation and a former aide to Vice President-elect Al Gore Jr., will administer the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The representation of women in top jobs in the Clinton administration is already close to matching the top levels of past administrations.
Jimmy Carter initially appointed two women as Cabinet secretaries, and later appointed another. One woman served in two Cabinet positions, one after another. Ronald Reagan initially had no women in his Cabinet, but eventually appointed three. President Bush began with one, and eventually appointed three.
One of the next appointments Clinton is expected to announce, his attorney general, is expected to be a woman, as well. If so, he would be breaking a major precedent by bringing a woman into the so-called inner Cabinet, which is made up of the four secretaries of the oldest and largest executive departments - Justice, State, Defense, and Treasury. The attorney general has the rank and function of secretary of the Justice Department.
"That would actually be a major milestone," if a woman headed Justice, says Janet Martin, a Bowdoin College political scientist who has studied women in Cabinet positions.
"It looks like he's keeping his promise very visibly and quickly" to appoint a diverse administration, says James Pfiffner, a George Mason University professor and an expert on presidential staffs. "I don't think these are tokens. These are women with professional credentials that are competitive with anybody."
Appointing women to top positions may be easier for Clinton than previous presidents, Dr. Pfiffner adds, because as women have been in the work force longer, they have accumulated credentials and experience.
Dr. Martin says it is curious that Clinton announced his EPA administrator before choosing the heads of the State, Defense, or Justice Departments. The urgency he showed to quickly announce the appointment of women, she says, "actually detracts from women being treated as people."
"I don't see why you have to treat Dec. 11 as women's day," she complains.