Snow comes back in from the cold

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The Independent US

In a major surprise, President George W, Bush will retain John Snow as his Treasury Secretary - just days after unnamed White House officials told reporters that Mr Snow “can stay on as long as he wants, provided it’s not very long.”

In a major surprise, President George W, Bush will retain John Snow as his Treasury Secretary - just days after unnamed White House officials told reporters that Mr Snow “can stay on as long as he wants, provided it’s not very long.”

Mr Bush’s decision to keep Mr Snow on, and to name Jim Nicholson, the US ambassador to the Vatican, to take over the veterans’ affairs department, removes the last uncertainty over his second-term cabinet. It means that nine of the 15 recognised cabinet posts have changed hands since last month’s election.

Since he took over the Treasury at the end of 2002, Mr Snow, a former railroad executive, is considered to have done a solid job. But he has been primarily a spokesman for economic policies that are settled elsewhere, rather than a policymaker in his own right.

With sweeping reforms of the tax and social security systems set to dominate Mr Bush’s domestic agenda, Wall Street had expected his replacement by a more forceful successor. Indeed, two outside figures are believed to have been offered the job, only to turn it down.

Unlike Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, Treasury secretaries under Bill Clinton, Mr Snow has commanded little respect on financial markets. Though he has paid lip-service to a ‘strong dollar,’ he has left little doubt that the US is happy to see the currency fall further, provided the process is orderly.

Unlike his immediate predecessor Paul O’Neill, he has steadfastly refused to question Mr Bush’s tax cuts and the massive deficits they have spawned.

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