Bush names Powell as choice for U.S. secretary of state
President-elect Bush, left to right, Gen. Colin Powell, Laura Bush and Vice President-elect Cheney after Powell's nomination as secretary of state
| WEB EXCLUSIVE|
Ex-Gulf War general's popularity cuts across partisan lines
CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- President-elect George W. Bush today named former U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell as the nation's next secretary of state, making Powell the first person to formally accept a Cabinet post in the Bush administration.
Powell -- who would be the first African-American secretary of state in U.S. history -- formally accepted Bush's offer Saturday during a ceremony at an elementary school near Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.
The secretary of state nominee offered a preview of his international policy. "We will stand strong with our allies against those nations that pursue weapons of mass destruction," Powell said.
Powell also pledged to continue the struggle for Mideast peace. "It is absolutely a given that under a Bush administration, America will remain very engaged in the Middle East."
On Iraq, he said, "My judgment is that sanctions of some form must be kept in place . . . we are not doing this to hurt the Iraqi people, we are doing this to protect the people of the region."
Bush called Powell "an American hero, an American example and a great American story."
In a reminder of how far he's come, Powell jokingly thanked Bush for not holding the ceremony at the Texas governor's nearby ranch. "I'm from the South Bronx," Powell said, "and I don't care what you say, those cows look dangerous."
Powell's appointment is expected to be easily approved by the Senate.
The 63-year-old retired army general served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Persian Gulf War and the presidency of Bush's father, George Bush, and briefly during the first term of President Bill Clinton.
Because Powell is popular across the political spectrum, his appointment is seen by many analysts as a reassuring message following a historically close election that has revealed deep national divisions.
The Powell appointment is no surprise; Bush had hinted at it from the earliest days of his presidential campaign.
Son of immigrants
Powell -- the son of Jamaican immigrants -- was born in New York City and served two tours of duty in Vietnam. He is a recipient of several military decorations, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. He also has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal and an honorary knighthood from the queen of England.
Since his retirement from the military in 1993, Powell served as chairman of America's Promise, a volunteer organization aimed at helping young people. He is married and has three children.
Other Cabinet possibilities
In addition, Condoleezza Rice, Bush's chief international affairs adviser during the tumultuous campaign, is likely to be named as national security adviser.
Bush reportedly is poised to name Al Gonzales, a Texas Supreme Court justice, as White House counsel, GOP sources said Friday. As governor of Texas, Bush appointed Gonzales, a former Texas secretary of state, to the state's highest court in 1999.
Other names mentioned for defense secretary include former Sen. Dan Coats, an Indiana Republican; Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Bush's rival in the GOP primaries; and former Sen. Sam Nunn, a Georgia Democrat. But both Nunn and McCain have said they are not interested in the job.
The Bush transition team began moving its headquarters Friday from temporary space in the Virginia suburbs to government-provided office space in Washington. The General Services Administration on Thursday turned over the official transition office space and a $5 million allocation to pay for the process.
The new leaders are racing to make up for a five-week delay caused by the Florida recounts after Election Day, a situation that was resolved Wednesday when Vice President Al Gore conceded. Aides said some posts in the new White House could be announced by Saturday. But more than 6,400 administration jobs need to be filled, including 1,125 that require Senate approval.
CNN National Correspondent Tony Clark contributed to this report.