WASHINGTON -- President Clinton tapped Madeleine K. Albright, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, yesterday to be the first woman to serve as secretary of state and reached across party lines to nominate Republican Sen. William S. Cohen of Maine as defense secretary.
As part of a second term shake-up of his national security team, the president also replaced departing CIA Director John M. Deutch with national security adviser Anthony Lake and elevated Lake's deputy, Samuel "Sandy" Berger, to the National Security Council job.
In an Oval Office ceremony, Clinton and his appointees stressed their intention to fashion a bipartisan foreign policy.
"Each of these individuals has remarkable qualities of intellect, energy and leadership," Clinton said. "All are committed to work together as a team that will rise above partisanship and rise to the challenges of meeting the opportunities, of dealing with the challenges that we all face."
Clinton's foreign policy apparatus has been characterized by a harmony within the administration unmatched by its recent predecessors. Yet that spirit of cooperation has not impressed Republicans on Capitol Hill, who say the president has failed to assert American leadership on a variety of fronts.
With yesterday's appointments, the president signaled that he wants congressional Republicans on board during his second term. His new appointees followed his lead.
"I must say that my entire congressional career has been devoted to pursuing a national security policy that is without partisanship," Cohen said.
The selections were hailed across the political spectrum, from liberal feminist leaders to conservative North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms, a critic of Clinton's foreign policy.
"President Clinton has been the best president in history in terms of recognizing and promoting women to important positions," said Donna Lenhoff, general counsel of the Women's Legal Defense Fund. "Now, finally, we have one at the highest level inside the inner circle."
Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noted that he had not always agreed with Albright, but pronounced her "a tough and courageous lady." He, too, called for a new spirit of bipartisanship in foreign policy.
Although he spoke highly of the appointments, Republican Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, predicted that Albright's Senate confirmation hearings would be an occasion for a "very long" and critical inquiry into Clinton's foreign policy.
"She's fully capable of handling all those questions and surviving," Warner said.
Albright, 59, made no apologies yesterday for the first term. "During the past four years we have had a skilled and successful foreign policy team." And in appreciation of Secretary of State Warren Christopher, the man she is to replace, Albright quipped: "I can only hope that my heels can fill your shoes."
Lake, 57, is to take over perhaps the most troubled agency in the national security field. The CIA recently has been rocked by the ++ second major spy scandal during the Clinton administration.
Shy and bespectacled, Lake seems an unlikely candidate to take control of the nation's intelligence apparatus. A college professor before joining the Clinton administration, Lake speaks softly and is known for his passion for Rotisserie League baseball. His resume includes an education at Harvard, Oxford and Princeton universities and stints in the State Department, including service in Vietnam. He advised Presidents Carter and Nixon and left the Nixon administration in protest over the bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War.
Berger, a 51-year-old attorney, is the only one of the group who could be considered a Democratic pol. A former congressional staff aide, Berger appears to enjoy an easy rapport with the president, who talks politics and policy with him.
In 1992, Clinton all but promised to put Republicans in his administration, but did not follow through. In the waning days of this year's campaign, however, the president suggested that he would look at Republicans for key posts.
According to the outgoing White House chief of staff, Leon E. Panetta, Clinton already had Cohen in mind when he began dropping those hints. Three or four weeks before Election Day, Panetta said, the first meetings were held on the subject of second-term staffing.
Once it became known that Christopher and Secretary of Defense William J. Perry wanted to leave after the election, Albright and Cohen quickly cropped up on the short list to fill the posts. Others mentioned included Deutch, former Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell of Maine, retiring Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia and longtime diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke.
White House officials had insisted that the president, who came off a grueling campaign only to embark on a two-week Asia trip and whose voice has failed him this week, was in no hurry to appoint his new Cabinet. Yesterday, though, Clinton indicated that the clamoring of the press -- and criticism that he was squandering his post-election "honeymoon" -- irritated him.
"You know, you and I, we're partners, too," the president told reporters crowded into the Oval Office. "My voice was working enough today for me to do this announcement and I had to give you something or you were going to go crazy."
On Wednesday night, after greeting members of Congress who attended an annual Christmas ball at the White House, Clinton went upstairs, then sent for Panetta who was dancing downstairs with his wife, Sylvia.
"I think I've come to a conclusion here," the president told Panetta in the kitchen of the White House residence. "I'd like to have Madeleine Albright as secretary of state and Bill Cohen as secretary of defense."
Clinton then phoned both of them, as well as Mitchell, Nunn and Holbrooke.
Four years ago, Clinton ran into problems in his determination to be the first president to choose a female attorney general. This time, the president did not make gender the sole criterion -- at least in public. And when he finally made a choice, he selected someone from his administration whom he had seen up close for four years and who his aides say has proved her mettle to Clinton in the big leagues of diplomacy.
Asked about any affirmative action considerations in the appointment, Clinton denied that Albright's gender was the decisive factor while simultaneously taking credit for the trailblazing nature of the appointment.
"I'm very proud to have had the opportunity to appoint the first woman secretary of state in American history, but it had nothing to do with her getting the job one way or the other," the president said. "She got the job because I believe that in a list of truly outstanding people, she had the best combination of qualities to succeed and to serve our country at this moment in history."
Women's groups pleased
Women's groups, which had been pushing for her appointment, reacted ecstatically.
"What we've seen today is definitely a glass ceiling being shattered," said Ellen Malcolm, chairwoman of Emily's List, an organization that raises funds to help women get elected to political office. "I'm grinning like the Cheshire cat, I'm so happy."
Malcolm was among a delegation of women who last week presented Vice President Al Gore with a list of 40 women within the administration whom they said should be promoted to more senior positions. Albright topped the list.
By contrast, the selection of Cohen was not an act that broke new ground. Instead, it was an example of a president returning to a practice that had fallen out of favor in national politics -- but which served previous presidents well.
Three of Clinton's Democratic predecessors, Jimmy Carter, John Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt, made a point of picking Republicans to serve in their Cabinets.
Bipartisanship comes naturally to Cohen, 56, who once co-authored spy novels with Colorado Democrat Gary Hart. A Latin scholar and published poet, Cohen has built a reputation during 24 years in the House and Senate as a moderate on social issues who was willing to buck party leadership.
He attained national prominence in 1974, when he became one of the first Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee investigating the Watergate scandal to recommend the impeachment of President Nixon.
"The choice of Cohen is a sign of the times -- a good sign," said Bert Rockman, a presidential scholar at the University of Pittsburgh. "In recent years the pressures on the president to be more partisan have grown stronger. But it's clear that the public doesn't want the whole agenda of either party, and this is a gesture recognizing that fact.
"It's also a reasonable strategy; it will help Clinton in the Senate."
Pub Date: 12/06/96