As President-elect George W. Bush prepared to name additional choices for his Cabinet, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appeared to be the front-runner for director of central intelligence, the New York Times reports, quoting Republican officials.
Bush has scheduled an afternoon news conference in Washington today to announce what aides said could be several appointments. The selections could include Gov. Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin to be secretary of health and human services; Karl Rove, Bush's chief campaign strategist, to be a special counselor to the president; and Lawrence B. Lindsey, Bush's chief economic adviser, to become chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers.
"You'll have to just wait and see who I announce," Bush told reporters Wednesday in Boca Grande, where he was fishing with his father, former President George Bush, and his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida.
Bush surrounded himself with family at the Florida resort for two days, playing golf and fishing Wednesday with his father. The former president and the president-elect motored off together in a small skiff in the morning.
The president-elect made mischief, not news. While stepping gingerly down stairs to board his fishing boat, the elder Bush, who recently had hip surgery, complained: "Who's that goosing me with that stick?"
The gooser in question was his son, the future president, poking his father with a fishing pole. Bush's press corps watched all this from a floating dock, which bobbed precariously nearby and took on water when the journalists leaned to one side to call out questions.
Aides said that over the holidays, Bush has closely conferred with Vice President-elect Dick Cheney, who is heading the transition team and has been calling and interviewing Cabinet candidates in the past few days.
But even top advisers say they are not privy to what the two men are thinking about appointments, at least not until shortly before they are announced.
The selection of Rumsfeld, 68, a former Republican congressman from Illinois, ambassador to NATO and secretary of defense from 1975 to 1977, would reunite him with his star protege, Cheney. The vice president-elect was deputy White House chief of staff to Rumsfeld in the Ford administration, and later succeeded Rumsfeld as chief of staff.
Rumsfeld headed a bipartisan commission that in mid 1998 concluded that U.S. intelligence officials had been far too relaxed about missile threats and noted that other nations could use shortcuts to develop such a weapon. Critics complained that panel's mandate was politically skewed to boost the case for anti-missile defenses.
_ Information from the Associated Press and Washington Post was used in this report.