Moving swiftly to fill the vacuum left by the death of Ronald H. Brown, President Clinton announced yesterday that he will nominate U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor to be the next secretary of commerce.
The White House had brusquely discouraged speculation about a successor in the wake of the crash in Bosnia that took Mr. Brown's life.
Michael McCurry, the president's press secretary, chided those engaging in speculation and said it would be "many days" before the matter of a successor would be taken up. As it turned out, Mr. Clinton waited only two days after Mr. Brown's funeral and burial to make his announcement.
Mr. Clinton's choice of Mr. Kantor seemed designed to ensure that the Commerce Department will be headed by a top political ally - as Mr. Brown was - at a time when some Republicans are threatening to dismantle the agency.
"We need to send a clear signal to the rest of America and to the world that we don't intend to miss a beat," the president said, announcing Mr. Kantor's selection at a White House event to tout U.S. car exports to Japan.
Trying to put his economic team in order as he heads into an election year and budget talks with Republicans, Mr. Clinton also said he has chosen Franklin D. Raines as director of the Office of Management and Budget.
The president named Mr. Kantor's deputy, Charlene Barshefsky, as acting trade representative. She has received widespread praise in the past three years for her high-profile negotiating of trade deals with Japan and China.
Mr. Kantor signaled that he intends to follow Mr. Brown's lead in attempting to make the Commerce Department, once a bureaucratic lightweight, a major force in economic policy.
"I will continue that legacy," he said. "That is my pledge, that is my goal, that is what I'm going to do."
The choice of Mr. Kantor, 56, who managed Mr. Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, was greeted warmly on Capitol Hill.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, called Mr. Kantor "a good choice." Campaigning in Texas, he said, "He will probably be widely supported on the Republican side."
Sen. Larry Pressler, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, also praised the selection.
Because Mr. Clinton made Mr. Kantor's appointment while Congress is in recess, rules allow the new commerce secretary to take his post almost immediately. According to White House officials, confirmation won't be required until the end of 1997.
Mr. Kantor will accompany Mr. Clinton to Japan next week as commerce secretary. …