Clinton breaks the mould with radical cabinet line-up

For the first time a woman will be Secretary of State while a Republican becomes defence chief

In two ground-breaking choices, President Bill Clinton has chosen Madeleine Albright, currently US Ambassador to the United Nations, to be Secretary of State, and the outgoing Republican senator William Cohen to be Secretary of Defense, as the backbone of a new national security team for his second term.

Assuming she is confirmed by the Senate, Ms Albright, the daughter of a Czech immigrant who fled the Communist takeover in 1948, would become the first woman in US history to hold the most prestigious cabinet job, which is also the fifth-ranking post under the country's constitution.

In other moves, announced by Mr Clinton in an Oval Office ceremony yesterday, Anthony Lake, currently national security adviser, will take over from John Deutch as director of the troubled Central Intelligence Agency, while Mr Lake will be replaced by his deputy, Sandy Berger. Strobe Talbott is expected to remain as Deputy Secretary of State.

Originally, the White House had signalled that Mr Clinton would move to make good the massive post-election exodus from his cabinet within days of his victory on 5 November. But as with the selection of his first cabinet four years ago, the process has become far more protracted than intended.

But, in the past few days, the 59-year-old Ms Albright, a strong advocate of intervention in Bosnia and the expansion of Nato, and the spearhead of Washington's effort to oust Boutros Boutros Ghali as UN Secretary General, had clearly emerged as favourite, as the star waned of former front runner, the ex-Senate majority leader George Mitchell.

Seen primarily as a loyal and forceful executor of policy, rather than a grand strategist, she is unlikely to usher in any great changes in US foreign policy, at least not in the early stages. But she is likely to be a far more assertive promoter of policy than her predecessor, the cautious Warren Christopher - no mean attribute when the State Department budget and foreign aid are under unprecedented pressure from a Republican- controlled Congress profoundly suspicious of all things foreign.

Even so, Ms Albright's approval by the Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by the arch-conservative Jesse Helms, is hardly in doubt, thanks to her staunchly anti-communist personal background and her forthright championing of US interests - not least in her excoriation of Fidel Castro, a particular bete noire of Mr Helms.

Apart from Mr Mitchell, the other finalists in the state department search were the departing Georgia senator Sam Nunn, and Richard Holbrooke, the architect of the Dayton peace accords for Bosnia. Mr Holbrooke could succeed Ms Albright at the UN in New York.

For his part, Mr Cohen, a moderate three-term senator from Maine deeply versed in defence policy, was always a prime candidate to succeed William Perry at the Pentagon, once Mr Clinton had signalled his wish for accommodation with Capitol Hill by appointing at least one prominent Republican to a top administration post. Not since Richard Nixon made John Connally Secretary of the Treasury in 1971 has a senior cabinet member served under a president of a different party.

Like Ms Albright, 56-year-old Mr Cohen is not squeamish about the use of US military force. An early advocate of going to war against Saddam Hussein over Kuwait, he insists the US must maintain a forward defence strategy, underpinned by more mobile forces.

The two appointments could see both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue more united on foreign policy than at any point in Mr Clinton's tenure. If so, it will be a good omen for the other cabinet posts the President must fill, including transportation, housing and energy.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Metail Ltd: Business Development Manager for Asia Pacific

£35,000 - £40,000 based on experience : Metail Ltd: As a Business Development ...

Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Owner

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product ...

Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - £17,000 Basic, OTE Uncapped

£17000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company are looking for a S...

Recruitment Genius: 1st / 2nd Line Technical Analyst

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 1st / 2nd Line Technical Anal...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate