Drafting A Dream TeamDouglas Harbrecht
Sizing up another winning Democratic White House bid amid a sick economy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt described his mission in stark terms: "These unhappy times," Roosevelt proclaimed in 1932, "call for the building of plans." No wonder President-elect Bill Clinton--a man who loves to construct plans and 10-point programs--is so fond of FDR comparisons.
As the euphoria of his victory fades, Clinton has begun work on the difficult issues of job creation, health-care reform, and deficit reduction. The President-elect has kept the single-minded campaign focus that carried him to victory: His top priority is fixing the economy. To do it, Clinton aims to attack the nation's malaise with an assault modeled on Roosevelt's 100 days.
Getting the economy on a path to recovery in 100 days will take tact and skill. But most of all, it will require an able team. That explains why Clinton, the irrepressible candidate, is suddenly cautious in choosing who's who in his new administration. "So much rises and falls on the team we pick," says Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist think tank. "The new President must have people in key positions who can help him define his mandate quickly. We can't afford old-style Democrats committed to marginal adjustments in the Washington status quo."
But Clinton can't delay for long. The Arkansan soon will appoint a Treasury Secretary and the chief of a new Economic Security Council. Clinton is intent on using these selections to show the financial markets that he will work both to stimulate growth and reduce the budget deficit. The econo-team's first assignment: setting up a two-day economic summit, tentatively planned to take place in December at the Governor's mansion in Little Rock. On the guest list: business executives, Wall Streeters, and labor leaders who will be charged with formulating what one Clinton aide describes as an economic "action plan."
There's no shortage of ideas. Corporate leaders are already brimming with suggestions. The bigger challenge is fashioning discrete, sometimes contradictory notions into a coherent policy. Already, Clinton is facing conflicting demands within his party: Centrists from Clinton's Democratic Leadership Council are arguing with traditional Democratic liberals over who gets the job of White House budget director. The centrists are angry that Alice M. Rivlin, a former Congressional Budget Office director, has emerged as a front-runner, saying they want someone who will vigorously stress deficit reduction over demands for spending on social programs.
`HANDS-ON.' Disputes of that sort show why organizing the White House is a crucial task. And Clinton has to suppress a tendency, developed in 12 years as a governor, to try to do too much himself. "This is a roll-up-the-sleeves, hands-on manager," says transition adviser William A. Galston of the University of Maryland. "Unless he has a character transplant, he's going to be talking to people all the time." Indeed, the Clintonites had toyed with the idea of the President serving as his own staff chief, but they're leaning away from the plan.
Just as campaigner Clinton made a fetish of avoiding the mistakes of Michael S. Dukakis in 1988, the President-elect seems determined to do everything differently from the last Democrat to occupy the Oval Office, the hapless Jimmy Carter. The transition team believes Carter erred by giving his Cabinet too much discretion in hiring, allowing constituent groups to hijack Carter's reform agenda. Worse, Carter overtaxed his most able domestic-policy adviser, Stuart E. Eizenstat, by putting him in charge of both economic and social policy.
To avoid such mistakes, the Clintonites are turning to two unlikely models. The Economic Security Council bears a striking resemblance to Gerald R. Ford's Economic Policy Board. "I certainly was struck," says L. William Seidman, who was chief of Ford's EPB. "It's exactly the same thing." But the creation of the council creates another layer in the decision-making process--a definite drawback. "The name of the game in the White House is who talked to the President last," warns Seidman. "His economic advisers will have to know that he uses his meetings with the council to make decisions, and that phone calls after the fact will do them no good."
The Clintonites also are closet admirers of the ideological rigor with which Ronald Reagan filled Cabinet and sub-Cabinet jobs in 1980. Transition directors Vernon E. Jordan Jr. and Warren Christopher have the high-profile task of recommending Cabinet members. But at the same time, Clinton staffers are quietly rounding up potential Under Secretaries and assistant secretaries sympatico with Clinton's centrist goals.
RIGHT OF REFUSAL. One Reaganism that Clinton may want to emulate: placing high-level White House loyalists in every agency, to ensure that the Clinton line is adhered to throughout government. "Everyone getting a Cabinet post will understand that Bill Clinton has first right of refusal on staffing," says a transition official. "Bill Clinton promised to be a different kind of Democrat. His challenge now is to redeem that promise."
But Clinton's passion to take a new broom to Washington is risky. The Arkansan's attacks on Capitol cronyism and nest-feathering already have irritated House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) and Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Me.). Both stand ready to fight Clinton if he pushes for two campaign promises: line-item veto authority or a big cut in congressional staffs to complement a promised 25% cut in White House personnel.
Clinton's plans to impose tough new restrictions on post-employment lobbying by senior Administration officials also could backfire. Under plans being discussed, officials would be barred from lobbying for companies for five years after leaving government and would be prohibited from working for foreign governments for life. The move is designed to mark a sharp break with the Bush Administration's coziness with lobbyists--and to appeal to the disaffected supporters of Ross Perot. But, warns political scientist James W. Davis of Washington University in St. Louis, Clinton "doesn't want to make the prospect of public service unattractive to people in the private sector. He could shoot himself in the foot."
TIME PRESSURE. That may be why Clinton is moving so cautiously. Transitions have a way of setting the tone for an Administration, establishing its strengths and sometimes planting the seeds of its destruction. Political scientist Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution warns that governors who come to Washington, especially those from smaller states, often underestimate the bureaucracy. "The first thing Clinton must remember is that Washington isn't Little Rock writ large," says Hess.
Clinton, the Georgetown University graduate and National Governors' Assn. veteran, is no capital neophyte. But in the coming weeks, he must constantly remember that his power could peak the day he takes office. Faced with such intense time pressure on the economy, having well-built plans ready to roll on Jan. 20 may be the only way to go.
CLINTONOMICS AT WORK Here's how Clinton wants to alter the traditional model of Administration economic advisers: ECONOMIC SECURITY COUNCIL A new creation, patterned after the National Security Council. The panel's charter: to develop and coordinate a coherent economic policy COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS Watch for this group now to focus on number-crunching, not policy OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT & BUDGET Clinton's OMB gets the job of reducing the federal work force COMMERCE Commerce will oversee industrial and high-tech policies TREASURY This department continues to set tax policy, guide international economic policy, and work with the Federal Reserve DATA: BWWHAT'S IN THE MOVING VAN FROM LITTLE ROCK As Washington girds for Clinton's arrival, its denizens are playing a frantic guessing game. Which of Bill's thousands of friends has the inside track with the President-elect? When will Hillary drop the Goody Two Shoes routine? Will glittering receptions be replaced by clogging parties on the White House lawn? Look for these changes and more: IN VERNON JORDAN, Chairman of Clinton's transition team OUT MICKEY KANTOR Clinton's staff found him arrogant, nixing him for Jordan's job IN TRACTOR PULLS in Landover, Md. OUT DOVE HUNTING in Beeville, Tex. IN EVENING SHADE, a Linda Bloodworth-Thomasson TV show OUT MAJOR DAD IN ECONOMIC SECURITY COUNCIL If Clinton's new competitiveness office is headed by a heavyweight, such as Harvard's Robert Reich, the council could tromp on bureaucratic toes OUT COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS Quick, who's Mike Boskin? The CEA has been eclipsed by the more powerful budget office. Under Clinton it will crunch numbers very, very quietly IN CHICKEN, ANY STYLE HUSH PUPPIES MOUNTAIN VALLEY SPRING WATER (from Hot Springs, Ark.) OUT PORK RINDS QUENELLES POLAND SPRING WATER (from Poland, Me.) IN ELVIS OUT THE GRAND OLE OPRY Clinton knows most of Nashville went for Bush. Randy Travis won't be warbling at any state dinners IN JOGGING (jiggly-legged variety) OUT JOGGING (skinny-legged variety) IN DIVERSITY Clinton's transition team is led by a black lawyer and includes a woman, an Hispanic, and several Jews. Saaay--where are the Asians, Native Americans, and Samoans? OUT THE OLD-BOY NETWORK Sure, there's a group of former Rhodes Scholars who pore over Swedish land-use manuals. But thanks to Hillary's influence, Clinton's team will `look like America' IN KIDS WHO NEED BRACES OUT KIDS WHO NEED LAWYERS IN CANDICE BERGEN OUT ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER IN SINCERE RED TIES OUT SMUG GREEN TIES IN MOTOR HOMES, summers in Hot Springs OUT SUMMER HOMES, fishing in Maine IN PAMELA HARRIMAN, the new superhostess OUT GEORGETTE MOSBACHER IN BASS-FISHING BOATS OUT CIGARETTE BOATS IN BIG MAC ATTACKS IN GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS Bright and tightly wound, Clinton's pint-sized communications director could be a top Presidential assistant. Watch out for those sharp little elbows IN LEISURELY GOLF in Rock Creek Park OUT SPEED GOLF at Burning Tree IN BOB STRAUSS OUT BOB STRAUSS