Emotional Bush bids farewell to beloved Texas

 

An emotional President-elect George Bush yesterday said goodbye to his beloved Texas, bowing out as its governor for what he said was the only job that could tear him away. But he held on to the governor's mansion for a few weeks as his new abode is not yet ready for him.

The process of building a Cabinet and filling the 6,000 posts a president has in his gift continues apace, with Mr Bush expected to announce as many as four more appointments today and his transition team in McClean, Virginia, frantically sifting through the 35,000 CVs they have received.

Mr Bush suffered a minor setback when the Montana Governor, Mr Marc Racicot, made clear on Wednesday he did not want to become Attorney General for family reasons. Mr Racicot is one of a group of governors who are close to Mr Bush and was particularly helpful in making his case during the court dramas over Florida ballots.

His non-availability means that his Oklahoma counterpart, Mr Frank Keating, may well get the job, an appointment which will please the ideological right in the party which has seen precious few of its members yet appointed to the presidential entourage. They will also be rooting for the former Indiana Republican senator, Mr Dan Coats, who is strongly tipped for defence and had a conservative voting record in the Senate.

But Mr Bush appears willing to reach out to the centre ground in the expected appointment of Ms Christine Whitman, the first woman New Jersey Governor and a noted Republican supporter of abortion rights, to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Enviromental activists say she is the best person conservation groups can hope for in a Bush administration although New Jersey campaigners have criticised her record on upholding local air and water standards.

Wisconsin's Mr Tommy Thompson, the country's longest-serving governor, an opponent of abortion, appears likely to get the job at Health and Human Resources, while a former Democratic congressman, the Rev Floyd Flake, who heads an African American church in Queens, New York, may get Education.

Mr Bush yesterday met 19 members of Congress, mainly Republican, for a lunch debate on education, one of his top priorities. Later he discussed the issue with a group of Hispanic leaders.

The Vice-President-elect, Mr Dick Cheney, met his opponent in the election, Mr Joseph Lieberman, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Mr Bush was yesterday replaced as Texas Governor by the state's Lieutenant Governor, Mr Rick Perry, a Democrat-turned-Republican, a rancher and air force veteran. According to local polls, he is known to barely one in four of the state's population, and faces a tough re-election contest in 2002.