Bush's First 100 Days: Linda Chavez interview

Linda Chavez was President Bush's original choice for labor secretary, but she withdrew her name after it emerged that she had given shelter to an illegal immigrant. Chavez had served under President Ronald Reagan as head of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Friday, March 9, 2001

Again, looking back to the first third of the 100 days here, a lot of talk early on about President Bush's personal touch, the so-called "charm offensive." How do you think he did with that as an approach in the early days coming out of Florida?

Well, I think that he is a charming man, and I think that his personal touch is probably one of his most effective means of communication. I think he was very smart to, in the very first days when he took office, to invite Democrats in, sort of reach across the party aisle and try to make amends for some of the kinds of harsh rhetoric that I think were apparent during the campaign, and I think that was effective. I think it sort of took people off guard.

It's much more difficult to demonize your opponent when you've broken bread with them, when you've had them in to the White House theater for a movie and eaten popcorn with them. So I think that has been — it's been important to trying to introduce him to the Washington insiders because he is, after all, very much an outsider in Washington.

Weekly Messages

Before we get into to more of the substance of the domestic agenda, staying on style and presentation questions, how do you think this White House did, this president did, in the sort of rollout of these major initiatives? Everything was very organized: Education Week, Tax Week, Military Week. Many people noting the similarities to the Reagan 100-day strategy, very strict unity of message, lot of thought to the visuals and all of that. How do you score that to presentation effort?

Well, I think that, that one of the things that I think anyone who sort of watched this president, compared to the last, would note will be the way in which this presidency really got off to a good start. I mean, you had a sense of people who knew what they were doing.

The irony is, of course, that there are some old hands in this crew, but it really isn't so much the old hands that are in charge. I think there is a kind of corporate image that, that comes across. You've got a CEO who's very much in charge and leading the direction of the nation, and you have people with assigned tasks, and they seem to know what they want to do, and they seem to know how to go about doing it, and there's a kind of seriousness and expertise that comes across.

Whereas, the Clinton folks really seemed to fumble about a bit. They really did seem much more like people out of the nonprofit sector, people who have not had to organize things in the way in which you do in the corporate world, and I think, again, that is something that's worked to President Bush's advantage.

Education President

There was a clear decision to start with education, near and dear to the president's heart.... Overall, how do you think he did in introducing that issue both to the Hill and the to the public at large?

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