Facebook Twitter

JUDGE CLINTON APPOINTEES BY HIS CAMPAIGN PLEDGES

SHARE JUDGE CLINTON APPOINTEES BY HIS CAMPAIGN PLEDGES

As Bill Clinton fills more and more top posts in the next administration, one key way of judging them is on the basis of how far the selections go toward filling the president-elect's campaign promises.

So far, Clinton seems to be showing scrupulous regard for those vows in filling Cabinet and other top jobs. But from at least one perspective, there's room for some skepticism.With the selection Friday of Donna Shalala as secretary of Health and Human Services, Carol Browner as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Laura D'Andrea Tyson as head of the Council of Economic Advisers, Clinton has made a quick and decisive start toward making good on his pledge to bring more women into his administration.

Likewise, with his selection Thursday of Washington insiders and Wall Street financiers to help him make economic policy, Clinton showed signs of being serious about moving the Democratic Party toward the middle of the road.

The trouble is that Friday's appointees, including Harvard professor Robert Reich as secretary of Labor, can be characterized as liberal Democratic activists. How many liberal activists can Clinton bring on board without abandoning efforts to steer his administration at least somewhat away from the political left?

At this early point, Clinton still deserves the benefit of a doubt. As conservative to moderate Americans scan the track records of the new appointees, they can find much to like along with some justification for being nervous.

For example, as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin's flagship campus, Shalala has won praise for innovative solutions to fund-raising and racial incidents.

Though Browner's brand of environmentalism won't please the business community, she has won praise for her savvy as environmental regulation secretary in Florida, where she adroitly settled a federal lawsuit over pollution in the Everglades and got a gasoline tax hike passed to pay for environmental cleanups.

Tyson has taught economics for 14 years at the University of California at Berkeley, an institution synonymous with aggressive liberalism. But conservatives can feel good about her philosophy that the security of the United States rests on being more competitive in the international marketplace.

As for Reich, a close associate of Clinton since their days as Rhodes scholars at Oxford University, he is a leading champion of improving the long-term economy through investment in worker education and in roads, bridges, and other elements of the infrastructure.

Though all the new appointees face stiff challenges, none are more demanding than those confronting Shalala at Health and Human Services. Perhaps the most wrenching one involves the battle to reduce health-care costs while expanding services. Besides helping Clinton make good on his campaign promise to move recipients more quickly off welfare and into jobs, she also must handle other such sensitive issues as AIDS research, abortion counseling at clinics receiving federal funds, fetal tissue transplant research and tougher child support laws.

As Clinton has moved to fill these and other top posts, he has made a point of seeking appointees who would provide the next administration with ethnic diversity along with political and geographical balance. But it is the wrong focus.

What counts is not the composition of the new Cabinet but how wisely and expeditiously it solves problems. That alone should determine whether or not there is a second Clinton administration.