. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Christopher Heads List Of Cabinet Defections

WASHINGTON -- President Bill Clinton bade a formal adieu to Warren Christopher and praised the "steely determination" of his secretary of state as he hinted broadly he might add Republicans to his Cabinet to help carry out a centrist second-term agenda.


Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Federico Pena and Labor Secretary Robert Reich became the fifth and sixth Cabinet secretaries to tender their resignations, and Ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale also joined the exodus.


At the same time, Attorney General Janet Reno, though criticized by some White House aides as not always in step with Clinton's best interests, indicated she hoped to stay in her post.


In a White House ceremony Thursday, Clinton said he accepted Christopher's resignation "with great regret ... but deep gratitude for his service to our administration and to our country. For all Secretary Christopher's skills at defusing crises, I believe his lasting legacy was built behind the headlines, laying the foundations for our future."


Clinton said he wanted to "cast a wide net" in the search to replace Christopher and other departing Cabinet members. One message from Tuesday's election results, he said, was a desire by the American people for greater cooperation across the political divide.


Clinton's remarks fueled speculation that he might dip into Republican ranks for a new secretary of state. One possibility is Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


The president's comments also pointed up the countervailing pressures he faces in trying to replenish his rapidly depleting Cabinet.


He has good, practical reasons to seek centrist candidates, including Republicans. The new Senate, which must confirm his nominees, will be more Republican, more conservative and, in the case of some committees, probably more pugnacious than the one that Clinton has had to deal with for the past two years.


More than that, moderate choices also may be most closely in tune with the goals Clinton has been talking about for this term. But while he is moving in this direction, said aides and Democrats on Capitol Hill, the president cannot afford to lose sight completely of his first-term goal of a Cabinet that, in its racial and gender diversity, "looks like America."


One administration aide said Clinton could afford to lay somewhat less emphasis on this goal, since he has already set records for Cabinet appointments of women and minority officials, including judges. Besides, he no longer faces re-election pressure.


Four of the departing Cabinet secretaries -- Christopher, Reich, Defense Secretary William Perry and Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor -- are white. But the administration will also lose Pena, who is Latino, and Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary, who is black.


Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros, who is also Latino, faces an investigation for payments he made to his mistress, and he too is expected to leave. And last year, Agriculture Secretary Michael Espy, a black, was replaced by Dan Glickman, who is white.


Jesse Brown, head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, who is black, is expected to remain. And Clinton may name New Mexico Representative Bill Richardson, a Latino Republican, to replace O'Leary.