The early reviews are in on the new George W. Bush administration.
It has all the elements of the classic horror story: a predictable
plot, familiar villains and an unshakable sense of déjà
vu. On the following pages, we take a look at Bush's nominees and
appointments, a diverse cast of characters in every way but ideology.
Left to their own devices, this collection of unrepentant cold warriors,
anti-choice extremists, Wise-Use desperados and corporate shills
(as well as a couple of reasonable old-fashioned conservatives)
could make for a harrowing next four years.
Can the forces of good thwart this evil plan? Well, as
In These Times went to press, thousands of townspeople were taking
their torches to Washington to protest Dubya's inauguration, making
one thing clear: There will be no honeymoon!
Mel Martinez gained his first national exposure when he personally
accompanied Elián Gonzalez, the 6-year-old Cuban refugee
and last year's cause célèbre, on a well-publicized
trip to Walt Disney World. Martinez is chairman of Orange County,
Florida, one of the nation's fastest-growing regions, and the first
Cuban-American ever to be named to a cabinet post.
Martinez is slated to take over the Department of Housing and Urban
agency with a $30 billion budget and a critical shortage of low-income
properties. Bush has said little about urban housing during the campaign,
and the issue is not likely to loom high on the president's agenda.
Martinez has an inspiring personal history. His parents sent him
to this country at age 15 as part of an airlift known as Operation
Pedro Pan. Landing in 1962 at a Cuban refugee- processing center
on Matacumbe Key, Martinez began his American life alone; he lived
in a foster home in Orlando for four years before being joined by
his family from Cuba. Working his way through college at Florida
State, he eventually earned a law degree and became a personal-injury
In 1984 he was appointed chairman of the Orlando Housing Authority,
an agency that served about 3,600 families in the small but rapidly
growing central Florida city. He held that post for two years before
moving on to be president of the Orlando Utilities Commission, chairman
of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority and chairman of Florida
Gov. Jeb Bush's Growth Management Study Commission. He was elected
chairman of Orange County in 1998, where he is the leader of 13
municipalities containing about 820,000 people.
His policies have drawn mixed reactions from his constituents.
He has championed programs that push home ownership for low-income
families, declared a moratorium on new residential projects in already-crowded
school districts, was an advocate of increased federal and state
aid to mass transit, and dismissed a city official who refused to
diversify his staff. But he has alienated some residents of Orange
County with strong support for Governor Bush's "One Florida" plan,
which urges the end of affirmative action, and his calls for mandatory
drug testing for both private and public employees.
In his two-year tenure, he has established a fairly good relationship
with the county's African-American citizens. "Most black people
in central Florida seem to be pretty content with Martinez," says
Lottie Collins, executive editor of the weekly Orlando
Times, the largest black-owned publication in the area.
"There was a little anger stirred up by the Elián controversy,
but many African-Americans knew he was being pressured by his fellow
Cuban exiles, so they gave him somewhat of a pass on that."
It's clear that Martinez's appointment was a payoff for the intense
loyalty of Cuban-Americans to the Republican Party, and he is not
expected to present any policy problems for his benefactors. Then
again, Martinez is capable of confounding expectations.