Second-term cabinet shakeup off to quick start

WASHINGTON (AP) — The anchors of President Clinton’s national security team — Warren Christopher and William Perry — led a snowballing exodus of at least six Cabinet officials Wednesday in a sweeping second-term staff shakeup.
Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor told Clinton he intended to resign to return to California. Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary, out of favor, also was quitting, officials said.
Transportation Secretary Federico Pena and Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros were expected to leave, as well, administration officials said. White House officials were waging a behind-the-scenes campaign for Attorney General Janet Reno to go; she wants to stay.
As the president returned triumphantly to the White House from victory celebrations in Arkansas, Washington buzzed with leaks about resignations and speculation about successors. No formal announcements were expected before a Cabinet meeting on Friday.
Clinton brushed aside questions about his staff, telling reporters on Air Force One “we just want to savor what happened yesterday.”
There were varying reasons for the staff reshuffling. Some, like presidential senior adviser George Stephanopoulos, made no secret of the fact they are worn out. Outgoing chief of staff Leon Panetta is considering running for governor of California. Some officials — O’Leary, Reno — were nudged toward the door. In general, Clinton wants to reinvigorate his presidency.
Christopher, 71, and Perry, 69, are highly regarded but, after countless trips to world trouble spots, have tired of the job.
Kantor, a political warrior who helped engineer Clinton’s 1992 victory, is bored at Commerce. He was believed to be interested in becoming White House chief of staff or attorney general, but now is said to have dropped those ideas.
Reno upset the White House overseeing Waco and Whitewater. Popular in Washington, she is not considered a team player. Recognizing she would be tough to shove aside, White House officials are waging campaign of leaks against her, noting her battle with Parkinson’s disease. Her doctors say she has a mild case and it is not a problem.
Labor Secretary Robert Reich is welcome to stay, officials said, but appears inclined to leave. Reich told associates he’ll talk about his future over the weekend with his family, which has moved back to Boston.
Pena wounded himself by mishandling the ValuJet crash. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s brother, Bill, is a possible successor.
Cisneros, while popular with Clinton, is under investigation for allegedly concealing information about payments to a former mistress.
Republicans, strengthening their grip on the Senate, will have veto power over all Cabinet replacements. That raises the possibility that Clinton, in a bipartisan gesture, would install some Republicans in high administration positions.
“It’s a chance for him to reach out and be very bipartisan and even appoint some Republicans in a way which indicates a real willingness to work together,” House Speaker Newt Gingrich said.
Clinton’s former political strategist, Dick Morris, also said it would be good idea to put Republicans in the Cabinet.
The president also could try to avoid ugly confirmation battles by turning to readily acceptable choices, such as retiring senators. For example, Democrat Sam Nunn of Georgia and Republican William Cohen of Maine both have backgrounds in defense issues. Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell also is available.
A few Cabinet secretaries appear likely to stay: Donna Shalala at Health and Human Services, Robert Rubin at Treasury, Dan Glickman at Agriculture and Bruce Babbitt at Interior. CIA Director John Deutch is a leading candidate for the Pentagon job.
Education Secretary Richard Riley said he is “tired but happy” and intends to speak with Clinton about his future. His job is safe if he wants to stay, White House officials said. So is Veterans Secretary Jesse Brown’s.
Christopher informed Clinton of his decision Tuesday night as they savored the president’s re-election. Even so, the secretary plans to go to Cairo, Egypt, and Paris next week for conferences on economic development in the Middle East and on Bosnia’s recovery from war.
Perry told Clinton he wants to leave “for personal reasons,” but will stay a few more months until a successor is confirmed, officials said.