NOW THAT THE president-elect has picked Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, and company, he must get down to the hard part: filling the second-tier appointments that brought President Clinton so much grief. It's only a matter of time before Democrats ambush George W. the way Republicans did Bill over Lani Guinier and Henry Foster. Bush must therefore act boldly and swiftly to fill the following vital positions:
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights: Why should all Justice Department honchos be attorneys? Here, Bush can embrace a former opponent who boasts a long record of speaking out fearlessly on multicultural issues, who has shown special sensitivity to a class of outsiders scorned by hypocritical liberals, who went to the wall to protect the civil rights of persecuted immigrant John Demjanjuk. The choice: Pat Buchanan.
Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts: Here's another chance for Bush to further disassociate himself from his sheltered, pampered upbringing. He needs someone with solid populist credentials, someone who won't make him uncomfortable with fancy talk. The NEA chair should be someone God-fearing and grounded in family values entertainment, but able to reach out to young people in their language. Who better than a Christian singer who dared to go heavy metal? The choice: Pat Boone.
Surgeon General: Any kind of doctor will do; the question is what this MD will do with the DC soapbox. The nation's top doc should be a fearless advocate of personal responsibility, someone who can tell whiners and malingerers to stop blaming drug companies, HMOs, and employers for their ailments. Bush can also demonstrate diversity and woo Lieberman voters with a belated Jewish appointment. The choice: Laura Schlessinger, PhD.
ONE OTHER VITAL transition task remains: finding a Secret Service alias for the new president. This handle can set the tone of an entire administration. Reagan received the stouthearted moniker "Rawhide" and won a second term. So did Clinton after being dubbed "Eagle." Nothing went right for Nixon after being branded "Searchlight," with its whiff of the surreptitious. VP Walter Mondale was burdened with the tag "Cavalier," evoking callous indifference and cheap Chevrolets. Calling Quayle "Scorecard" raised an uncomfortable question: How high would he score on a test? And George Bush Sr.'s handle, "Sheepskin," reeked of wimpiness and Ivy League privilege.
W. originally requested "IMPOTUS" (short for "I Am President of the United States"), the license plate he wanted for his Texas pickup. But Jim Baker talked him out of it on the grounds that shameless sore-loser Democrats would claim it stood for "Impostor President of the United States." (Fortunately, Prime Minister- elect Cheney is expected to decree a more suitable presidential code name soon.)
Finding an alias for Cheney himself was a snap. Anyone who remembers his lean, mean defense secretary days—standing steely and cool during Gulf War briefings—can imagine him being played by the late, great Peter Sellers. And so to White House insiders Cheney will always be . . . Dr. Strangelove.