Rumsfeld, Daschle winners in first year of term, bin Laden, Greenspan losers

Bush presidency brings celebrity

Posted: Tuesday, January 22, 2002

WASHINGTON -- In the first year of George W. Bush's presidency, the war on terrorism turned Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld into a television star and exiled Vice President Dick Cheney to the land of secure, undisclosed locations.

For Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, it was a year in which recession crimped his magic touch on the economy. A single Republican switch handed Sen. Tom Daschle the keys to the Senate.

Sunday marks the 12-month point of the Bush administration. It was a year that changed reputations for better and worse. The president was the biggest winner. Narrowly elected in 2000 and gaining few converts seven months into his term, Bush galvanized Americans after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Polls show 80 percent of voters approve of his job performance now. Aides are cranking up the re-election machine for 2004 and Republicans are encouraged about their prospects in congressional elections this year.

On the flip side, one of the year's biggest losers was Democrat Al Gore. His prospects for defeating Bush in a rematch dimmed after the attacks, when the legitimacy of the presidential election stopped being an issue.

Don Evans, a Bush friend and fund-raiser, helped defeat Gore and landed the top job at the Commerce Department. Evans was drawn into a brewing controversy when Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay, a major Bush donor, called him for help as the company was collapsing last year.

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill also talked to Lay, but his problems go deeper. O'Neill has a habit of speaking too bluntly about White House and monetary policy, prompting reports that his job is in jeopardy. Senior Bush advisers say, however, the president likes O'Neill's style.

Tommy Thompson had a tougher year as secretary of health and human services. White House officials say he doesn't seem to like his job, stumbled out of the gate during the anthrax scare and has rubbed Bush staffers the wrong way. If pressed, White House aides predict he'll be the first Cabinet member to go.

Such talk is a source of friction between the White House and Thompson's department. Associates say Thompson loves the job and is buying a condominium in Washington. His pet issue, welfare reform, is making a comeback in Congress this spring.

It was a bad year, too, for Greenspan.

The recession marred the Fed chairman's record and he lost points with economists when he did a flip-flop on the need to protect the budget surplus. His change of heart gave Bush valuable ammunition in his fight to pass a $1.35 trillion, 10-year tax cut that Democrats now are blaming for eliminating the surplus.

Even some of the winners had imperfect years. Security concerns kept Cheney in hiding after the attacks, but White House officials say the vice president is still Bush's top adviser. A former defense secretary, Cheney is a major player in the Afghan war council while ceding no authority over domestic policy.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld earned rock-star status in Washington with brash talk and a successful battle plan. Bumping into him outside the Oval Office recently, Bush yelled, ''Hey, there's the sexiest man in America!''

The day terrorists struck America, the cover of a major news magazine pictured the secretary of state and the headline, ''Where have you gone, Colin Powell?'' No one wonders about that now. He kept Arab nations in the U.S. coalition and U.S. troops out of Iraq.

Whenever Powell and Rumsfeld clashed, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice mediated the disputes and urged the national security team to bring a single recommendation to Bush. She managed to keep most of the debates secret.

A constant presence in the Oval Office, Rice may be the most influential member of Bush's war team.

The newest member of the national security team, Tom Ridge, was too moderate to serve as Bush's vice president, but jumped from the Pennsylvania governorship to run the homeland defense office.

It is a thankless job, but Ridge could be Bush's running mate in 2004 if Cheney steps aside or a presidential candidate in 2008 if he succeeds in his current assignment.

Rudolph Giuliani is another rising GOP star. The former New York mayor was Time magazine's Person of the Year after leading the city through the aftermath of terrorist attacks. He is likely to return to GOP politics.



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