Bush proposes Thornburgh for new post in charge of U.N. budget, bureaucracy Job a new direction after November loss

February 09, 1992|By Karen Hosler and Mark Matthews | Karen Hosler and Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- President Bush is pushing former Attorney General Richard L. Thornburgh for the top administrative job on the United Nations staff, U.S. officials said yesterday.

An American is expected to be named to the new post of undersecretary for administration and management and to play a crucial role in streamlining the U.N.'s bureaucracy. Mr. Bush, who has been trying to find a new spot in government for Mr. Thornburgh since his drubbing in the Pennsylvania Senate contest in November, recently offered the spot to him, officials said.

4 Mr. Thornburgh could not be reached for comment.

Although the job was described as an important one, it might be seen as a step down from Mr. Thornburgh's earlier posts, which include eight years as governor of Pennsylvania. It would also take his career, which has been largely devoted to the domestic and legal arena, in a whole new direction for which he has had little preparation.

But administration officials said that Mr. Thornburgh, 60, who met personally with Mr. Bush and White House Chief of Staff Samuel K. Skinner in late December, is eager to return to public service.

His qualifications were also defended by an administration official who said he was "a very good governor with a lot of respect" and called him "a superb candidate who would represent the commitment this president has to the U.N."

In the new post, which was created in a U.N. reorganization announced Friday, Mr. Thornburgh would be the first American to take charge of the U.N. bureaucracy and budget that has for years been a critical concern to the United States because it foots 25 percent of the costs.

Mr. Thornburgh's defeat in November to Democrat Harris Wofford was seen as a national bellwether that has been troubling Mr. Bush ever since. The well-known Republican was turned aside by an overwhelming margin in favor of a novice who had served only a few months as a replacement for the late Sen. John Heinz.

The rejection of Mr. Thornburgh was seen largely as a voter backlash against the Republican administration. But Mr. Thornburgh was also blamed for an aloof attitude.

He first won notice in Maryland as assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division from 1975 to 1977, when his department was prosecuting former Gov. Marvin Mandel and other local officials.

He served as governor of Pennsylvania from 1979 to 1987 and was appointed U.S. attorney general by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.

Mr. Bush asked Mr. Thornburgh to stay on as a part of his Cabinet when he took office in 1989.

But Mr. Thornburgh's tenure in the Bush administration was stormy, with some insiders complaining that his political

ambitions overcame his management skills.

"He's realized he's never going to be president," said one official, who explained that Mr. Thornburgh was now ready for a new challenge.

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