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feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

January-31-01

Bush's Picks: A Cabinet that looks like Radical Right America - Part I

"A good executive is one that understands how to recruit people and how to delegate." So declared George W. Bush when he presented his first three cabinet nominees just after the New Year. He's a man who makes much of teamwork. Less charitably, he depends on others--like those five Supreme Court justices and his brothers' Florida pals. However you feel about the way W moved into the White House, it's clear he didn't do it on his own. Nor will he govern alone. Confirmed or not, the people Bush wants to work with offer a window to his political soul and for feminists, environmentalists, peaceniks, civil rights defenders--and any number of other people--it's a pretty scary scene.

Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman
Like many of GW's cabinet appointments, she has a record of public service but she's also deeply tied to the private industries that as secretary of agriculture she is in a position to enrich. Veneman spent seven years in the agriculture department under Reagan/Bush, the last year, as assistant secretary of agriculture under George I. She ran California's agriculture department under Governor Pete Wilson. She's also worked as a lawyer for Dole Foods and served on the board of Calgene, a firm much engaged in genetic engineering. She's pro genetically-engineered foods, pro-globalization, pro-tree cutting (she will oversee the forest service), and she helped to negotiate the farm portions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT.)

Secretary of Energy, Spencer Abraham
A Harvard-educated grandson of Lebanese immigrants, in 1999, he was one of a handful of senators who sponsored a bill to abolish the very department he now heads. (He says he no longer holds that view.) He was a top aide to VP Dan Quayle during George I's reign. Swept into the Senate during the "Republican Revolution" of 1994, Abraham was rejected by Michigan voters after a single term. Nonetheless, during his tenure representing the home of the auto industry, he made carmakers his friend. He blocked higher fuel economy standards for sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) and light trucks, and advocated suspending the federal gas tax when gas prices edged up. In 2000, he joined a bid to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration. He opposed money for research on solar energy and clean energy sources. The League of Conservation Voters gave his Senate voting record a rating of zero, but private energy companies are enthusiastic. If confirmed, Abraham will be handling utility deregulation. "He's just who we need to address the difficult energy issues facing the country today," Thomas Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, an association of investor-owned electric companies told the Washington Post. He has no experience dealing with nuclear weapons facilities, which is another part of his portfolio.

Secretary of the Interior, Gale Ann Norton
One of the most controversial selections and another friend of the industries she will monitor. Norton's law firm, Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, & Strickland lobbies in D.C., according to the Associate Press, for Delta Petroleum, Timet-Titanium Metals Corp., the Shaw Group (which manufactures pipes for oil and power plants), Ustman Technologies (which monitors underground storage tanks), and Warren Rogers Associates (a seller of products and services for chemical and petroleum Storage tanks.) According to Friends of the Earth, she lobbied for a lead paint manufacturer, NL Industries (formerly National Lead Co.), which is named as a defendant in lawsuits involving 75 Superfund and toxic waste sites, plus various suits brought by parents of children poisoned by lead paint. From 1991 to 1998, Norton was attorney general of Colorado, the first woman to hold the job. Tough on crime, soft on industry, in favor of the death penalty, against affirmative action, and anti-gay, Norton defended Colorado's Amendment 2, which prohibited local laws

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