Stories that people tell about Colin Powell always seem to have the same ending. Like the time in 1972 when Powell, then a newly minted major in the Army, was trying out for a prestigious White House fellowship. The final shortlist had 33 candidates, and after Powell left the interviewing room, the chairman of the selection board looked around and said, "Right, so it's Colin Powell and who else?" Later, when Powell became a general, his Pentagon staffers looked upon him "almost like a sage," recalls one. "He was magnificent," says the officer. "He was just right all the time." Much later, after Powell became chairman of the Joint Chiefs, his incisive mind and calm manner brought order to meandering national-security meetings in the early Clinton administration. "It was so clear to all of us that he could do any job in the room, up to and including president," the late Les Aspin, the former Defense secretary, once recalled. "You pay attention to Colin."
The entire world is going to do that now. Not since George C. Marshall--another general--has someone of Powell's mega-stature become secretary of State, the No. 1 cabinet position and America's official voice to the world. And like Marshall, who served under Harry Truman, Powell is expected to be the star of the administration, the one who commands every room he walks into, who can silence a strategy session just by clearing his throat.
The real question is what Powell will do with all his stature and charisma. On Saturday a tearful George W. Bush proudly named Powell, "an American hero," as the 65th--and the first African-American--secretary of State. It was the first of a slew of major appointments expected in coming days. Powell, himself misty-eyed, said he would espouse "a uniquely American internationalism... [to be] an inspiration to a world that wants to be free." Yet when it comes to the major issues of U.S. foreign policy--especially what crises the lone superpower should jump into--Powell has a less-than-stellar, even mysterious, record behind him.
Powell is often linked by name to the superconservative "Powell Doctrine." That's been loosely defined to mean U.S. military might should be used only for "vital national interests" and if there is high probability of success. Powell's Vietnam War experience--he did two tours--bred in him a reluctance to commit troops, and then to do so only as a "last resort." But in truth, Powell has never embraced such a formal doctrine of intervention. His views are much more nuanced. At his announcement ceremony Powell laid out a proactive foreign policy virtually indistinguishable from that of Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's: one that prods other nations to follow America's "path" toward democracy and open markets.
Despite the awe in which he's held, Powell has made missteps. Indeed, some of his major policy recommendations have ended up on history's ash heap. He resisted sending U.S. forces to the Balkans in 1993, earning Albright's ire; but force ultimately worked there. Powell also recommended that Clinton send U.S. Special Forces into Somalia to go after warlord Mohamed Aidid the same year; 18 were killed in the administration's most disastrous mission abroad.
One thing Powell brings to the job is broad experience--and a personal story straight out of the American Dream. The Bronx-raised son of Jamaican immigrants, he has a perspective far different from that of his often-WASPy predecessors at State. Powell's sensitivity to the world's disadvantaged is a theme running through his entire career, from his days as a young black officer in the Jim Crow South to his fervent championing of "America's Promise," a campaign for inner-city kids. Case in point: Powell pushed America into Somalia only after the U.N. secretary-general accused the West of ignoring African blacks at the expense of whites in Bosnia.
Powell's expansive worldview--if that's indeed what it is--could lead to tensions with the other towering figure of the new Bush administration: Vice President-elect (and some would say CEO) Dick Cheney. Powell and Cheney, though they are friendly now, clashed during the gulf crisis. Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs, advocated sanctions on Iraq while the then Defense Secretary Cheney pushed for an aggressive military response--and there, too, as history has judged, Cheney was right and Powell wrong. Still, Powell was faster than Cheney in the early '90s to see that America's old cold-war posture must change; to reorient the military to other threats and regions; to consider larger reductions in nuclear arms. While Cheney, in the campaign, focused on revamping the U.S. military, Powell's first task is to beef up the demoralized State Department, possibly at the expense of Pentagon funds. Given Cheney's iron will, it's no surprise Powell negotiated an understanding, NEWSWEEK has learned, that he'll run the Bush foreign policy. He made that clear Saturday, crisply setting out policy on issues from missile defense to Iraq sanctions as his boss stood mutely behind him.
Another big question going forward will be the personal dynamic between Powell and Bush's likely national-security adviser, Condoleezza Rice. The 46-year-old Stanford prof was the president-elect's chief foreign-policy adviser during the campaign. But Rice--another African-American first in that post, and the first woman--was a national-security official in the White House of Bush's father for only two years. With Cheney and Powell on the scene, it will be interesting to see whether she emerges as a force in her own right. In part, at least, that may be up to Colin Powell, too.
Dick Cheney This is the Dick Cheney that George W. Bush kept raving about. Awkward and dry as a campaigner, the vice president-elect is visibly more at ease these days in his job as Bush's transition chief, fielding resumes, screening appointees and settling into his role as the new administration's wise man. Cheney has never been one to hog the spotlight. Methodical and relentlessly detail-oriented, he will sweat the specifics for a boss who likes to paint in broad strokes.
It's a familiar task. As Gerald Ford's chief of staff in 1974, Cheney, then 35, helped restore order to an administration in chaos after Watergate. The young aide quickly immersed himself in White House issues large and small--from overseeing the evacuation of Americans trapped in Lebanon to making Betty Ford more comfortable on the presidential helicopter. "He was a hard worker, solving problems in the trenches," Ford recalled to NEWSWEEK. "He didn't do what he did to get his name or picture published."
Twenty-five years later, Cheney brings those same skills to yet another Republican White House, his third. As secretary of Defense for Dubya's father, Cheney was a key member of the team that planned and executed the gulf war. Now, many believe he'll be the quiet force behind the new president, who was putting baseball Rangers on the field while Cheney was sending Army Rangers into combat.
Laura Bush Just three days after the tumult of election night, Laura Bush spoke at the opening of the Texas Book Festival. With her audience wondering how she'd handle it, she deftly defused any hint of tension with a smile and a wry little joke. "The unnecessary use of any of the following words--'subliminable,' 'snippy' or 'recount'--will result in an invitation not to return," she said. The crowd roared, charmed by the humor and unflappability that won over her husband long ago. She can seem demure, but her calm exterior belies a steely inner core. She won't frequent the West Wing, but Laura Bush will leave her touches on her husband's administration. Bush often tells his advisers, "Laura thinks... " She keeps Bush focused by gently correcting him when he misspeaks or nudging him when he misses a cue. The former school librarian will weigh in on education policy, vet her husband's discourse for tone and keep a close eye on his media handling. The reserved 54-year-old knows how to use the public stage, but she prefers the private arena. Her husband was once quoted as saying Laura was the perfect political wife because she wasn't "trying to butt in and always, you know, compete." The day after the Supreme Court ruling, Laura Bush surprised her friends in Austin by keeping a date with her garden club."Laura, it's all over," a friend exclaimed. "No, it's just beginning," Laura told her. Then, in her unassuming way, she steered the attention away from herself and back to planting bulbs.
Karl Rove Besides his own father, George W. Bush owes the presidency most to one other man: Karl Rove. Dubya and Rove met in 1973, while Bush's dad was chairman of the Republican National Committee. They've been political brothers-in-arms ever since, talking at least once a day almost every day for more than a quarter century. The 50-year-old Rove, brilliant and bespectacled, is a largely self-taught and obsessively knowledgeable student of American history. (He dropped out of college in 1972 to run for, and win, the chairmanship of the College Republicans.) He's also a strategic kneecapper who doesn't mind attacking viciously--just ask John McCain, who weathered a Rove-designed assault in South Carolina. At the time, Bush was on the ropes, but he never lost faith in Rove, who has guided his career since Bush first ran for Congress in 1978. While others fretted, they joked together about their humiliating loss to McCain in New Hampshire. But Rove is no right-wing ideologue. He was the architect of Bush's "compassionate conservative" message and strategy; he guided him toward pacifying the GOP right early--and ignoring it thereafter. Now it will be up to Rove, tugboat to Bush's ocean liner, to guide the boss through the tricky political tides of the presidency.
Don Evans With his painfully shy manner and ever-present smile, Don Evans is an easy man for jaded Washingtonians to underestimate. That wouldn't be smart. He is an astute businessman, a devout (though not Bible-thumping) Christian and a loyal west Texas friend of long standing--all of which makes him an unshakable member of Bush's inner circle.
After Bush's impetuous and unsuccessful run for Congress in 1978, it was Evans who drew Bush into the Midland community. Evans navigated the tough times in the oil business that nearly ruined Bush. He says now that those who want to understand Bush should remember that as a wildcatter, "he's used to wells coming in dry sometimes." It was Evans who invited the hard-partying Bush into a men's Bible-study class in town: they are both reformed drinkers. Evans maintains a wide circle of contacts in the business community that formed the core of Bush's fund-raising efforts--which Evans oversaw to great effect. (One of his ideas: serve peanuts at the events to save money and show that the campaign would run lean and mean.)
Evans's chairmanship of the campaign wasn't just window dressing. He was in charge of the debate negotiations, made the key calls for Bush during the Florida fight and was with Bush on the night Gore called to concede--this time for good. Now he'll be his old friend's chief liaison to business as the likely secretary of Commerce--and a friend in town for Bush to lean on.
The Governors Frank Keating was once an FBI agent and top Justice Department official. And yet there he was, at a counting table in Palm Beach, squinting at dimpled chad. "It was surreal," says Oklahoma's governor, who won his first local race after a recount. "I thought I'd grown out of this." But there's not much Keating and other GOP governors won't do for Bush, which is why W wants a bunch of them--Montana's Marc Racicot and Wisconsin's Tommy Thompson are others--at his side. The plain-spoken Keating was on the supershort veep list and could be attorney general or FBI chief. "Talking and spitting are not customary behavioral patterns for us," he says of the governors. "We have to work with Democrats."
Andy Card When George W. Bush arrived in Philadelphia for the Republican convention, he got the report that everything was running flawlessly. "You know why?" Bush asked. "Two words: Andy Card." Card was at the top of Bush's list for chief of staff even before Card pulled off one of the smoothest conventions the GOP has ever seen. He'd served loyally in Bush Sr.'s administration, where he earned the reputation of a tough enforcer. A trained civil engineer, Card cleaned up the bureaucratic mess after Hurricane Andrew. When he was called on to fire Reagan appointees, he did it in person, taking care to demand the staffers' official pass cards back.
Now he'll play the heavy for Dubya. The irony is that Card is one of the best-liked members of the Washington establishment--a Massachusetts Republican who is well schooled in the art of bipartisanship. He is also fiercely, but not blindly, loyal. "He's a nightmare for the press," a friend jokes, explaining that Card doesn't leak. But he speaks frankly in private. During debate prep, Card dismissed the idea of loading Bush up on facts, insisting that people didn't want a wonk for president. He and Bush don't have a lot in common: Bush is a gregarious attention-seeker, while Card shuns the limelight. But he knows how to make his boss shine.
Karen Hughes Karen Hughes has put so many words in George W. Bush's mouth that she sometimes finishes his sentences for him. Hughes may be the closest personally to Bush of the trio of Texas advisers that also includes Karl Rove and Joe Allbaugh-the "Iron Triangle" of his staff. To Allbaugh, they were "the brain, the brawn and the bite," and Hughes, who is notably fierce in her defense of Bush, provides the teeth. She is much more than a press secretary who stays on message. Hughes believes the message because she helps to shape it. It was she who thought of selling Bush as a "Reformer With Results."
Although she knows Bush better than she knows Washington, no one thinks Hughes will be overawed by her new job: counselor to the president, advising Bush on strategy and communications matters. She has also shown, now and again, that she knows how to relax. At a campaign event in New Orleans, she got laughs from the press by putting a feathered table decoration on her head and shouting, "Forget tax reform! Let's party!"