December 20, 2000
Gwen Ifill reports on the Cabinet nominations President-elect Bush made Wednesday.
JIM LEHRER: Gwen Ifill begins our look at today's crop of Bush cabinet choices.
GWEN IFILL: President-elect Bush introduced corporate executive Paul O'Neill as his choice for Treasury Secretary at midday in Austin. Bush said he expects O'Neill to act essentially as the nation's chief financial officer.
PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: The world is more connected than ever. Our economy and the lives of every American depend upon our standing in the world. Secondly, our economy is showing warning signs of a possible slowdown. And so it was incredibly important for me to find somebody who had vast experience. In the days ahead, there will be much to do together. We must work to keep our economy strong. That's why we share a commitment to fair and responsible tax relief, and a strong commitment to making sure there is free trade in our world. I look forward to having this good man by my side.
GWEN IFILL: The 65-year-old O'Neill is currently chairman of the aluminum giant Alcoa, a job he's held since 1987. Before that, he spent ten years as an executive at International Paper; part of that time as the company's President. In the Ford administration, he served as deputy budget director at the Office of Management and Budget. The White House chief of staff at the time was Dick Cheney.
PAUL O'NEILL: I believe in the President- elect's policy and program as he's articulated it over the last many months. And I'm dedicated to helping him achieve the greatness that I believe he aspires to for America. So it's really a pleasure for me to be here today. As some of you have noted in your stories, Secretary Cheney and I go back many years, and so it's also a pleasure to have a prospect of working closely with him again.
GWEN IFILL: Reporters asked Mr. Bush to elaborate on his suggestion that an economic slowdown is imminent.
PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: I am hopeful that this economy stays strong. I'm hopeful that the rate of growth of the economy is such that... that more capital will flow into the private sector, that people will be able to find jobs, that retail sales will be strong, that the automobile industry will be robust. I'm hopeful that the downturn in the NASDAQ is a... is a correction, because I understand the productivity gains that we'll have in our economy as a result of the new technologies. I'm hopeful. But I'm also a realist, and one of my jobs is to think ahead, just in case.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Bush also stressed the need for new sources of natural gas, and new laws to encourage clean coal technology.
PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: And one of the things we're going to have to do is start up a strong diplomatic effort to work with our, as I say, our friends in the Middle East to have an energy policy there that is respectful to their friend here and other democracies. The shortest, the quickest impact on the price of energy price, particularly crude oil, will be to work with OPEC nations and to foster relations so that they may be convinced to open up the spigots to keep the pressure off price.
GWEN IFILL: O'Neill, who has championed lower interest rates, said that as treasury secretary, he would leave monetary policy to the Federal Reserve.
PAUL O'NEILL: And I understand perfectly well that Fed policy is up to the Federal Reserve Chairman. But maybe as a little background it would be useful for you to know that I have known and worked with Alan Greenspan since 1969. When I was rising through the ranks to become deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, Alan was there for part of the time as the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. And we became not just professional associates, but close friends. We go back a long way.
We've had lots of dealings with each other over the years that - and he's been at the Fed - I've made it my business at his request to come by on a fairly regular basis and tell him what I thought he was doing wrong and what I thought he was doing right, which I felt I had the privilege to do being longtime friends and associates. It is true that I'm one who believes that we can operate at higher levels than most economists would have told you 20 years ago were possible -- that is to say with higher real rates of growth without inflation, which means stability and job growth, all the other things that are important. I do believe that.
GWEN IFILL: Bush also named three other cabinet nominees this afternoon. For Secretary of Commerce, he turned to his old friend and chief campaign fund-raiser, Don Evans.
PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: He has been a valuable advisor. He is a free enterpriser. He understands free trade and he'll do a fabulous job.
GWEN IFILL: The 54-year-old Evans has long been a part of the President-elect's inner circle. He chaired Bush's winning campaigns for governor in 1994 and 1998. And since 1975, he has been chairman and CEO of Tom Brown, a Texas-based oil and gas company.
DON EVANS: If I'm fortunate enough to be confirmed by the Senate, the road the Department of Commerce will travel is clear. The promotion of free enterprise, first in America and then abroad, will be our first priority; free flow of capital; free and open competition. And we will strive to be an advocate for U.S. businesses first in America and also those wading into the waters of the global marketplace. In short, we will endeavor to keep the genius of the American free enterprise system strong and dynamic from sea to shining sea and around the world.
GWEN IFILL: Bush also tapped local Florida official Mel Martinez to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Martinez is chairman of Orange County, Florida. For three years, he was also President of the Orlando Utilities Commission, and headed the Orlando Housing Authority for two years. He came to the U.S. from Cuba as part of the Pedro Pan children's airlift in 1962.
SPOKESMAN: President-elect Bush, as you know, for too long, too many Americans have been left out of the American dream, and as you said last spring, homeownership lies at the very heart of the American dream. I agree with you, and I will work hard to ensure that every American has every opportunity to have affordable housing. This is a vital element of compassionate conservatism. I know you will help low-income Americans achieve the full promise of America. After all, that is the American dream.
GWEN IFILL: Also selected today, California attorney Ann Veneman to be agriculture secretary. Veneman is an attorney at a Sacramento law firm. Co-chair of the Bush campaign in California, the 51-year-old Veneman served as California's agriculture director for four years. She spent seven years at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, rising there to deputy secretary of the Department under former President George Bush.
ANN VENEMAN: Agriculture is part of the fabric that makes America great. Our farmers feed and clothe not only the people in this country, but people around the world, and it's important that we work together to expand markets for our food and fiber both at home and abroad. President-elect Bush, like you, I want to find common ground and promote common sense, and I want to promote policies that will help all of our farmers reap a bountiful harvest for years to come.