Bush names Homeland Security, USDA positions
WASHINGTON – President Bush settled Thursday on Bernard B. Kerik, the New York police commissioner during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, to take over the Department of Homeland Security from its first leader, Tom Ridge, administration officials said.
In a third development, U.N. Ambassador John Danforth submitted his resignation after holding the job for less than six months. He had been mentioned as a candidate for secretary of state, a job Bush gave to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
White House officials described Kerik, who campaigned aggressively for Bush’s re-election, as a proven crisis manager who can straighten out the lines of authority in the infant department and work to prevent a catastrophic attack or cope with its aftermath. Other Republicans said Kerik would provide a telegenic presence, and one presidential adviser pointed out that Kerik “brings 9/11 symbolism into the Cabinet.”
Kerik will appear with Bush at the White House Friday, a senior administration official said. Some Bush officials said they were concerned about his lack of Washington experience, because commanding respect within the Cabinet and with Congress remains a challenge for the agency.
Bush also surprised Republicans Thursday by naming Nebraska Gov. Michael O. Johanns, 54, the party’s leading candidate in an upcoming U.S. Senate race, as secretary of agriculture.
If confirmed, he will succeed Ann Veneman, an original member of Bush’s Cabinet who said two years ago that she is fighting breast cancer.
In a third change as Bush reshapes his government for a second term, U.N. Ambassador John Danforth, 68, a former U.S. senator from Missouri, submitted his resignation after five months on the job.
Bush chose Kerik, 49, after the commissioner’s former boss, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, “made an impassioned personal plea to the president to give Kerik the job,” one administration official said.
White House officials said several people recommended Kerik and he was chosen on merit, not because of Giuliani.
Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., had energetically promoted Johanns for Senate. Nebraska’s lieutenant governor, Republican Dave Heineman, is to serve the remaining two years of Johanns’ term.
Appearing with his nominee in the White House Roosevelt Room, Bush said that in the second term he plans to continue policies that are “pro-growth, pro-jobs and pro-farmer” and keep working to open foreign markets to U.S. agricultural products.