Bush chooses Rice to replace Powell
US President Bush has chosen his national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to replace Colin Powell as secretary of state in his second term, a senior administration official said Monday.
Powell, a retired four-star general who often clashed with more hawkish members of the administration on Iraq and other foreign policy issues, resigned in a Cabinet exodus that promises a starkly different look to US President Bush's second-term team.
The White House on Monday announced Powell's exit along with the resignations of Education Secretary Rod Paige, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. Veneman had said last week she wanted to stay.
Stephen Hadley, deputy national security adviser, will replace Rice, the official said on condition of anonymity.
Combined with the resignations earlier this month of Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Attorney General John Ashcroft, six of Bush's 15 Cabinet members will not be part of the US president's second term, which begins with his inauguration Jan. 20. An administration that experienced few changes over the last four years suddenly hit a high-water mark for overhaul.
Still, the former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman remained the most popular member of the administration, more so than even Bush.
In a resignation letter dated Nov. 12, Powell told Bush that, with the election over, it was time to "step down ... and return to private life." The Army man for 35 years said he would stay on "for a number of weeks, or a month or two" until his replacement was confirmed by the Senate.
Asked what he plans to do next, the 67-year-old Powell said, "I don't know."
In a statement, Bush called Powell "one of the great public servants of our time."
Most of the speculation on a successor to Powell has centered on Rice, who is generally seen as more hawkish and is one of Bush's closest advisers. She is widely considered the president's first choice for the top diplomat job despite reports that she intends to return to California ¡ª she was provost at Stanford University ¡ª or was hoping to replace Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary.
Aides to Rice declined to comment. In Ecuador for a meeting of defense ministers, Rumsfeld gave no indication that he is on the verge of stepping down. "I have not discussed that with the president," he said when asked if he planned to resign.
Also mentioned as a possible Powell replacement was U.N. Ambassador John Danforth, the former Republican senator from Missouri. Danforth described Powell as "a great person" and "an outstanding public servant." As to whether he might succeed Powell, Danforth said, "It hasn't been mentioned by me or to me."
Powell, one of the architects of the 1991 Persian Gulf War in the administration of Bush's father, often sparred in private with hard-line administration officials such as Vice President Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld over how to proceed in Iraq and the role of the international community.
In his most memorable presentation, Powell soldiered on and delivered the administration line before the United Nations and a world audience on the rationale for ousting Saddam Hussein.
"Secretary Powell's departure is a loss to the moderate internationalist voices in the Bush administration," said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador in the Clinton administration. "Hopefully, his replacement will be a pragmatist rather than an ideologue."
The resignations come as Bush faces major challenges on both the foreign policy and domestic fronts. Internationally, the threat of terrorism looms, the fighting in Iraq continues with upcoming January elections in doubt and the Middle East landscape has shifted with the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
On the home front, Bush has called for ambitious second-term legislative priorities, including overhauling the tax code and Social Security.
Paige, 71, the nation's seventh education secretary, is the first black person to serve in the job in which he oversaw Bush's signature education law, the No Child Left Behind Act. The leading candidate to replace Paige is Margaret Spellings, Bush's domestic policy adviser who helped shape his school agenda when he was the Texas governor.
Abraham, 52, a former senator from Michigan, joined the administration after he lost a bid for re-election, becoming the nation's 10th energy secretary. Abraham struggled to persuade Congress to endorse the president's broad energy agenda.
Sources said that Abraham intends to stay in Washington, where he plans to work in private law practice.
Veneman, 55, the daughter of a California peach grower, was the nation's first woman agriculture secretary. Speculation on a potential replacement has centered on Chuck Conner, White House farm adviser; Allen Johnson, the chief U.S. negotiator on agricultural issues; Bill Hawks, undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, and Charles Kruse, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau Federation.
Rep. Charles Stenholm, D-Texas, who lost his bid for re-election, said he was flattered that his name had been mentioned as a possible Veneman successor, but he has "not been contacted by anyone that counts."
In an appearance at the daily State Department midday briefing, Powell said he had a full end-of-year agenda. The most popular member of Bush's Cabinet in international circles, he was often viewed as a voice of moderation in an administration that many foreign leaders, particularly in Europe, regarded as too willing to work unilaterally.
Powell's resignation drew expressions of praise and regret overseas.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair described Powell as "a remarkable man and ... a good friend to this country over a very long period." German Defense Minister Peter Struck called Powell's retirement "regrettable" and described him as "a reliable partner in conversation in the area of defense policy."
In his resignation letter, Powell said, "I am pleased to have been part of a team that launched the global war against terror, liberated the Afghan and Iraqi people, brought the attention of the world to the problem of proliferation, reaffirmed our alliances, adjusted to the post-Cold War world and undertook major initiatives to deal with the problem of poverty and disease in the developing world."
The resignations are on a par with what other presidents who have won second terms have experienced.
In 1984, President Reagan named a new attorney general and new Treasury, Interior, Labor, Energy, Education and Health and Human Services secretaries. In 1996, President Clinton tapped new secretaries at State and Defense as well as Commerce, Labor, Transportation, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said none of those who are resigning would leave before successors were chosen.
Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, attending a meeting in
Hawaii, declined to say whether he, too, would resign ¡ª but told reporters he
has not submitted a letter of resignation. "The couple elements of this decision
are if and when," Ridge said. "And when those decisions are made, I'd prefer to
share it with the president first."