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Stocking The New Bush Cabinet

By David Paul Kuhn, Chief Political Writer

President Bush told reporters Thursday that "there will be some changes" in his cabinet. "I haven't made any decision," the president added in his first press conference since winning a second term.

But that hasn't stopped the speculation. Cabinet shakeups come with every new term and Mr. Bush's next four years will no doubt mean new faces in critical White House positions.

Attorney General John Ashcroft is expected to resign before the New Year, due in part to recent health concerns. He had gallbladder surgery in March.

Ashcroft's expected departure has brought several names to the forefront, chief among them former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who originally made his name as a tough prosecutor.

Giuliani is one the most popular Republican figures in the country. In the final weeks before Mr. Bush's reelection Tuesday, he was relied upon more than any other surrogate on the campaign trail.

But Giuliani's support of abortion rights and civil unions would make him an unpopular selection among conservatives.

Amid calls for unity across party lines, there will be some pressure for Mr. Bush to put a Democrat in his cabinet. The only current Democratic cabinet member, Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta, is expected to step down.

Should President Bush not select a Democrat, a Giuliani appointment would be a move toward moderates.

Another name being touted to replace Ashcroft is former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, Thompson headed the National Security Coordination Council and was appointed to head the president's corporate crime taskforce. A conservative, Thompson would be the preference of the Republican right.

Far more visible on the world stage is Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell's confrontational relationship with hardliners in the Bush administration has fanned speculation of his retirement for well over year.

The political scuttlebutt in December 2003 was that Powell wanted to replace 70-year-old World Bank chief James D. Wolfensohn. World Bank or not, many in the political chattering class expect Powell to step down prior to Mr. Bush's inauguration.

Should Powell leave, one possible replacement is National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, though some question whether she would prefer that position over secretary of defense. But there is no indication Donald Rumsfeld is considering retiring at the Pentagon.

To the contrary, Rumsfeld likely wants to see the war in Iraq through to the end, as well as his efforts to remake the U.S. military. But his failure to plan for the Iraqi insurgency and the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad may undermine his chances of staying on.

United Nations Ambassador John F. Danforth, a former senator, is also considered a possible replacement for Powell. But Danforth is new to his U.N. position, and the White House may decide it is more important to have some continuity in the key diplomatic post.

Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge has all but said that he will retire before Mr. Bush's second term. The former Pennsylvania governor has expressed a desire to earn more money in the private sector to support his family.

Homeland Security may be a better fit for Giuliani. If he were chosen, Republicans would gain Giuliani's security bravado without having to worry about his centrist positions on social issues. Conservatives would support Giuliani replacing Ridge rather than Ashcroft.

If Ridge or Rice were to step down a likely replacement for either position is John R. Bolton, under secretary of state for arms control and international security. A favorite of neoconservatives, Bolton was a prime mover in crafting Mr. Bush's "Axis of Evil" doctrine supporting preemptive war and hawkish diplomacy with North Korea and Iran.

Bolton's boss, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, is also a possible replacement for Rice. An architect of the war in Iraq, Wolfowitz has been under fire by Democrats for the lack of postwar planning. The national security adviser does not need to be confirmed by the Senate, so Democratic disdain for Wolfowitz would not be a factor.

However, Mr. Bush's reelection may provide some vindication for those who have taken the most criticism over the war in Iraq – Wolfowitz for example.

Bolton and Wolfowitz, along with Rumsfeld, have come to define a Bush doctrine of bold diplomacy. And if, as is likely, neoconservatives return to favor at the White House, they could stand to gain.

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