Racicot says N-O

Focus for attorney general post shifts to Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating.

By Salon Staff

Published December 20, 2000 1:12PM (EST)

Montana Gov. Marc Racicot said he has rejected an offer from President-elect George W. Bush to be the next U.S. attorney general.

"I'm just at a point of time in life and with my family that I'm not sure that that would be in our best interest," Racicot told the Associated Press.

Racicot was one of the first governors to encourage Bush to make a run for the White House. Press speculation focused on the Montana governor during the Florida election standoff, when Racicot emerged as a vocal Bush supporter, holding press conferences and hitting the talk-show circuit on Bush's behalf. Speculation is now focused on another governor, Oaklahoma's Frank Keating, to take the top job at the Justice Department. -- Anthony York [4:30 p.m. PST, 12/20/00]

Bill TV?

After NBC officials confirmed a report by Matt Drudge that President Clinton's allies had floated the idea of the president's starring in a TV show, Clinton pooh-poohed the idea in an interview with CBS's Dan Rather. The transcript reads:

Rather: There was a report today, you're thinking about hosting a television program. Anything to that?

Clinton: No. [Chuckle] You guys make more money than I have though. Maybe it's not a bad idea. You know, I hear it costs a lot of money to support a senator -- [Unintelligible]

Rather: Don't believe everything you read, Mr. President.

The exchange is notable because of A) the potential for presidential parsing: "Hosting a television program," we might later be told, isn't the same as, say, "engaging in a televised dialogue with the nation" or "having discussions with the great thinkers of our day who, hey, just happen to be in front of a camera"; and B) Rather's false (extremely false) modesty: The man's salary is estimated at $7 million -- almost as much as Hillary Clinton's book advance.

Clinton: Pardon me?
George W. Bush continues to make appointments to his Cabinet. Republican officials leaked to the Washington Post three definite announcements planned for Wednesday: Mel Martinez, a Florida government official and Cuban immigrant to be housing secretary; close Bush friend and campaign chairman Don Evans as commerce secretary; and California lawyer Ann Veneman as deputy secretary of agriculture. Other possible announcements include Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (whose welfare-to-work program launched a national welfare rehaul) as secretary of health and human services and New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Should any or all of these folks get the nod Wednesday, they will at least be spared the pre-announcement drubbing that Bush's probable secretary of defense, former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, took. Coats, a social conservative, faced criticism by gay groups, who say his voting record demonstrates intolerance equal to that of his former colleagues Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond. "We're not as worried as the gay groups, but almost," retired Navy Capt. Lory Manning of the Women's Research and Education Institute told the Post, adding, "Of all the nominees I've heard of so far, he's the only one who makes my hair stand on end."

Just some good ol' boys
Bush met first with Clinton and later with his vanquished foe, Vice President Al Gore, Tuesday, with notably different results. Bush and Clinton chummily took questions from reporters (at one point Bush said he was "humbled and honored" to be in the Oval Office) and talked for nearly two hours. They chatted mostly about foreign policy, according to the New York Times, and Clinton's desire to visit North Korea before he leaves office. But what they really said, or felt, may never be known. Bush, who spent his campaign bashing Clinton by promising to "return dignity and honor to the White House," is unlikely, according to a Bush flack, to give Clinton a presidential pardon should he be charged with any crimes stemming from the Monica Lewinsky fiasco. (In his interview with Rather, broadcast Tuesday on "60 Minutes II," the president said he would rather fight than be pardoned.) Still, the two at least gave the appearance of being just two good ol' boys, never meanin' no harm.

The mood was different later in the day, when Bush visited the vice president's home for a meeting with Gore. While the two appeared civil, reporters were not given open access, and Bush reappeared from inside the veep's Naval Observatory manse after a mere 16 minutes. The two exchanged a chilly-looking farewell as snow began to blanket the capital. -- Kerry Lauerman [7:40 a.m. PST, 12/20/00]

At long last, Gore leads
Gore got some good news from a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showing that he would lead President-elect Bush 50 to 41 percent in a hypothetical presidential rematch. The new poll provides the most convincing evidence to date that America loves a loser.

Gore trailed Bush in nearly every tracking poll during the election's final weeks, but topped Bush in the popular vote by more than 500,000 votes. -- Anthony York [5 p.m. PST, 12/19/00]

The Bushes come to town
President-elect Bush took a victory lap around the Capitol Monday, meeting lawmakers with the generous, gee-whiz approach of a kid with a new bike. "It's amazing what happens when you listen to the other person's opinion, and we began the process of doing that today," he told reporters during meetings with the two Democratic minority leaders, Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., and Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. While leaders from both parties frown over the size and scope of his proposed $1.3 trillion in tax cuts in the next decade, Bush stayed upbeat, calling his plan "even more solid today than it was a year ago." Earlier in the day, however, after meeting with Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, he voiced gloomier sentiments about the economy, saying, "We must be concerned in this country about energy." Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer told the Washington Post there is "a looming energy crisis" caused by a reliance on foreign oil. "If you look back at previous recessions, they often were triggered by problems in the energy sector," he said. Unstated message: Hey, if this economy tanks, it was already broken.

Over at the White House, Laura Bush, dressed in lilac and looking straight out of a 1967 Redbook, met for about an hour with Hillary Rodham Clinton, wearing her usual serious, no-nonsense black suit. They appeared briefly before cameras holding hands, and the wild contrast -- between the shy librarian wife of the new president and the cool, outspoken new senator some hope will oppose him in 2004 -- is likely to give fodder for feminist, anti-feminist and post-feminist rants in the days and years to come.

Salon Staff

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