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Donna Reed-Falls of Keller, Texas asks:
The first thing President Bush did in office was to curtail Clinton’s last executive orders. And from what I’ve seen, President Bush’s Cabinet choices seem to promote divisiveness. Do you think all this talk of bipartisanship is realistic?
Sonia Jarvis responds:
By their nature, most executive orders reflect the values and priorities of the chief executive who currently holds the office. There are of course some exceptions (e.g. Executive Order 11246 that regulates affirmative action in the federal contract procurement process has been in place since the Johnson Administration), but as a general rule, it is not unusual for a new executive to take issue with orders made by the outgoing administration.
What was unusual was both the number of orders signed in the waning days of the Clinton Administration and the promptness with which the incoming Bush Administration sought to overturn the same orders.
With respect to the Cabinet, it would be fair to say that many of Mr. Bush's appointments were expected and generated little comment, while a handful of appointments, namely to the Departments of Justice, Labor and Interior have created real controversy. Without those particular appointments, it would be fair to characterize the Cabinet as a moderate one rather than a conservative one. In light of the circumstances of this election, some experts had expected President Bush to appoint a more moderate Cabinet that would have been a least a bow to the notion of bipartisanship.
The vote on the nomination of former Senator John Ashcroft as Attorney General has been the most divisive even though he is expected to be confirmed with votes from Democrats. The only remaining question is whether 41 Democrats will withhold their votes initially which could lead to a filibuster as the first act of the new Senate, and poison any hopes for bipartisanship in the first half of the term. The Democratic majority leader has indicated already that a filibuster is not being contemplated.
Theodore Lowi responds:
Since other questions deal with bipartisanship, I should focus here on the very important observation about President Bush's first executive order to reverse a Clinton policy. Bush's executive order provides that no U.S. funds will be given to any international agency that offers abortion or abortion counseling. This leaves untouched Clinton's first executive order, which repealed the "gag rule" on Title XX family planning funds. The "gag rule" had been imposed by earlier Republican administrations to deny federal funds to any family planning agency that made reference to abortion as a possible reproductive option.
President Bush's order is particularly divisive since it is an "in your face" position on the very anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Surely this raises questions about the meaning of bipartisanship, since Bush's action ignores the views of Democrats, the half of the electorate that voted for Al Gore, and the majority of Americans, who support a woman's right to choose.