Vice President Al Gore struck a conciliatory tone at the Congressional Black Caucus' ceremonial swearing-in on Wednesday, urging the group to help and respect George W. Bush as president. "You must choose to heal our nation's divisions and move this country forward," he said. But featured guest the Rev. Jesse Jackson didn't sound ready to kiss and make up. "There's a tension in this room," Jackson said. He also referred to "churning in our stomachs" and "glass in the wound" over Gore's hairsbreadth loss.
Gore himself got a rock-star reception from the crowd, which greeted him with a screaming standing ovation and interrupted him with another barely a minute into his speech. That one was prompted when a woman called out from the audience, "Gore in four!" Congressman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said that the CBC-Gore love affair was not a passing fancy, at least not for four years. "As long as we have a Bush," Rangel said, "the support for Gore lasts."
-- Alicia Montgomery [12:10 p.m. PST, Jan. 3, 2001]
Bush completes colorful cabinet
As of Tuesday, Bush's Cabinet is fully stocked, and more than meets the "looks more like America" standard originally set by President Clinton. Bush picked outgoing Michigan Sen. Spencer Abraham as energy secretary, Linda Chavez as head of labor and Norm Mineta to lead the Department of Transportation. His final diversity tally is four women, two African-Americans, two Latinos, one Asian-American, one Arab-American and six white guys.
Mineta, the current commerce secretary for Clinton, killed two diversity birds with one stone for Bush, serving as the only Asian-American and the lone Democrat in the new Cabinet. Mineta's transportation expertise comes form his having risen to chair the House Transportation Committee during his 21 years in Congress.
Appointing Abraham, who is of Lebanese descent, will likely further Bush's progress in cultivating Arab-Americans as a Republican constituency. Ironically, Abraham once lobbied to kill the department he's now pledged to lead. Environmentalists are critical of Abraham's record and his close ties to the auto industry.
As for Chavez, her Hispanic heritage is unlikely to distract diversity hounds from her vocal opposition to affirmative action and her record as Ronald Reagan's director of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Furthermore, the labor community already has her in its sights for a rough confirmation ride, if not outright "Borking." John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, called her selection, "an insult to American working men and women." Chavez has a history of hostility to labor protections like the federal minimum wage.
-- Alicia Montgomery [7:45 a.m. PST, Jan. 3, 2001]