Now for a new foreign policy team Cabinet shakeup: Christopher and Perry leaving

Albright and Nunn possible successors.

November 07, 1996

PRESIDENT CLINTON, newly re-elected but facing a formidable 10-vote Republican majority in the Senate, is putting together a brand new foreign policy team. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Secretary of Defense William Perry are leaving. With the world in perpetual crisis or semi-crisis, Mr. Clinton can ill-afford protracted confirmation fights over his nominees to fill these two key posts. If he really wants to work with the GOP opposition, here is where he has to start.

Would-be successors at Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon will face hearings before two crusty Republican southerners -- Sen. Jesse Helms, head of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Strom Thurmond, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Two key prospects are U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright as the nation's first woman secretary of State and retiring Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., at Defense.

Ms. Albright, a critic of U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and his management of the world organization, is said to get along fairly well with Senator Helms.

For the Pentagon post, a Nunn nomination would sail through. The Georgia senator's experience on the Armed Services Committee is admired in the Senate. Another prospect would be CIA director John Deutch, but his elevation would require a new head of the troubled intelligence community.

The president is expected to replace a number of Cabinet and White House officials as he seeks to energize his administration. Hence, the importance of the increase in the Senate GOP majority from a 53-47 to an expected 55-45 margin. Had the chamber emerged from Tuesday's election more evenly divided, the Republicans would have been forced to make concessions to hold their advantage. Now their majority is sufficient enough that the White House must seek accommodation.

This may induce the president to let Attorney General Janet Reno stay on, as he should, rather than risk a confirmation battle that would highlight his troubles over Whitewater, abuse of FBI files and questionable campaign contributions from Asian sources. Other prospective Cabinet changes at the departments of Labor, Energy, Commerce and Transportation would probably be less controversial.

If major confirmation battles are avoided, this could foster a spirit of cooperation that has been rarely seen of late in Washington. Divided government need not lead to gridlock. A burst of legislation last summer offers a pattern both parties would be wise to perpetuate.

Pub Date: 11/07/96

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