A Cabinet That Refuses to Be Shelved ; the Longest-Serving Cabinet in the 20th Century Keeps Pushing Clinton's Agenda

Article excerpt

They may not have Bill Clinton's rhetorical flair or killer political instincts, but like their boss, the president's Cabinet secretaries seem determined to throw off the lame-duck label.

Having survived myriad scandals and investigations, this group of top advisers to the president has, remarkably, become the longest- serving Cabinet in the past century. It has also been one of the most active - a trend that shows little sign of easing up as its tenure draws to a close.

Take Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. Last week he suggested that President Clinton decree four more national monuments, protecting 500,000 acres in the West. When he's not setting aside land, he's banning snowmobiling in national parks or redrawing Yosemite Valley.

And that's just on the policy side. As the race for Clinton's successor heats up, his Cabinet is also getting into the political game, stumping for Vice President Al Gore on the campaign trail, drafting policy points, and lobbing grenades at GOP candidate Gov. George W. Bush.

"They certainly have been very active, and one of the most politically active Cabinets I've ever seen," says Al Felzenberg at the Heritage Foundation here.

To some degree, this flurry of activity marks the end of every administration, says C. Boyden Gray, counsel to former President Bush.

But analysts say that, as a reflection of Clinton's style and energy, this Cabinet is far more pumped than previous ones.

"His activism is naturally resulting in activism in his departments. It isn't like Ronald Reagan waiting to go West," says Charles Jones, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution here.

The Cabinet's very longevity reflects a high degree of satisfaction in their relationship with the president, as well as with their jobs, Mr. Jones points out.

In contrast, in the waning months of Lyndon Johnson's administration, the Cabinet was known as "the Alamo," because only the Texans were left.

At the White House, the president has made it clear that he expects his Cabinet, like himself, to be working up until the last day. …