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Thursday, November 18, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Bush picks advisers for 2 posts

By Dave Montgomery
Knight Ridder Newspapers

Margaret Spellings, named education secretary
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WASHINGTON — President Bush yesterday tapped two longtime confidantes from Texas for key positions in his second-term administration, nominating domestic-policy adviser Margaret Spellings for education secretary and promoting presidential assistant Harriet Miers to chief White House lawyer.

Both have had Bush's ear since his earliest political days as Texas governor.

Spellings, a former education lobbyist from Houston who was instrumental in shaping the president's principal education initiatives, was named to replace outgoing Education Secretary Rod Paige. In a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room, Bush introduced the mother of two as an "energetic reformer" who will be charged with expanding on the No Child Left Behind Act, which passed early in his first term.

Miers, a former Dallas lawyer whom Bush once described as a "pit bull in size 6 shoes," serves as deputy White House chief of staff and will replace White House counsel Alberto Gonzales. Bush nominated Gonzales, another Texan, for attorney general.

Spellings and Miers are virtually unknown to the general public and keep a low profile. Friends and associates say both are indefatigable, extremely loyal to Bush and combine intelligence with common sense.

Spellings, 46, joined Bush 10 years ago as political director of his first gubernatorial campaign and went on to become his chief education adviser in Austin, helping to push his school initiatives through the Legislature.

After Bush became president in January 2001, Spellings joined the White House team to oversee his domestic agenda. She quickly became the subject of conservative sniping after she was asked on C-SPAN to react to census data showing a decline in the traditional family. "So what?" she replied, noting that there were "lots of different types of family" and she herself was "a single mom." She since has remarried.

She perhaps is best known, though, for helping to craft the No Child Left Behind Act.

The act, which passed Congress in January 2002, requires states to test students annually in reading and math in third through eighth grades and at least once during the 10th through 12th grades. Bush has made expanding the act a top priority and wants to extend annual testing to high schools.

Spellings pledged that she would vigorously pursue Bush's goal of ensuring "that each and every child has the skills and qualities necessary to realize the American dream."

Spellings worked closely with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and other Senate leaders in helping to forge the bipartisan support that led to passing the act. Although Kennedy since has criticized the administration for providing inadequate money for the initiative, his spokesman, Jim Manley, said Spellings had "strong bipartisan support within the halls of Congress," suggesting that her nomination will win easy confirmation in the Senate.

Bush described Miers as "a trusted adviser, on whom I have long relied for straightforward advice."

Before teaming with Bush, Miers was president of the Dallas Bar Association, a former member of the Dallas City Council and a member of a prestigious Dallas law firm. After winning the gubernatorial race in 1994, Bush named her to his transitional team and later appointed her chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission during a period of turbulence for that agency.

Her appointment to replace Gonzales, which doesn't require Senate confirmation, will put her in charge of all major legal matters the White House confronts.

ALSO

Condoleezza Rice, nominated to be secretary of state, will undergo a minor surgical procedure at a Washington hospital today, a spokesman said. Rice is having a uterine fibroid embolization, a minimally invasive procedure to block arteries that supply blood to fibroid tumors, the spokesman said. It did not involve cancer or a life-threatening condition, he said.

The C-SPAN interview was reported by The Washington Post; the Rice item was provided by The Associated Press.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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