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Bush pressured to hire conservative secretary of defense

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Word that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge is high on Republican George W. Bush's list of potential defense secretaries has prompted an aggressive campaign by conservatives to pressure the Texas governor into looking elsewhere.

Opposition to Ridge is being aired in conservative publications, and several sources familiar with Bush transition discussions said complaints have been directed to GOP vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney, who is heading the transition planning and is himself a former Pentagon chief.

Ridge
Gov. Tom Ridge  

Ridge has repeatedly said he plans to complete his term as governor, which has two more years. But he nonetheless has been mentioned by senior Bush advisers, and several sources said those promoting Ridge include retired Gen. Colin Powell, the presumptive secretary of state in any Bush administration.

Ridge is a former member of Congress and served in the infantry in Vietnam, and is viewed by some as ideal for representing Bush with key constituencies -- including Congress and the military rank-and-file -- in promoting Pentagon reforms.

But the conservative campaign against Ridge notes his House voting record: opposition to President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, opposition to aiding the Nicaraguan Contra rebels and favorable comments about the nuclear freeze movement.

One source said some conservatives were lobbying Cheney. "You have to remember, Dick is very, very conservative," the source said, adding that former Bush administration official Paul Wolfowitz and former Sen. Dan Coats, an Indiana Republican, were among those being pushed by conservatives.

Ridge supports abortion rights, and conservatives lobbied heavily against his consideration as a running mate for Bush.

Powell also supports abortion rights. Bush's choice for chief of staff, Andrew Card is another moderate Republican who has sparred with the GOP's conservative base.

"There is a struggle under way, still relatively low-key but real, between the base and the governor's own instincts that he needs to soften things some to govern in this environment," said a source close to the transition planning.


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Tuesday, December 5, 2000

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