|By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, September 24, 2003 - 12:25 pm: Edit Post|
Elaine Chao profile
Elaine Chao profile
Elaine Chao profile
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Elaine Chao says she learned all about hard work from her Taiwanese-immigrant parents.
Introduced Thursday as President-elect Bush's new choice to become labor secretary, she talked about the three jobs her father held when the Chao family moved to the United States and about her mother's struggle to balance the family books.
"My parents taught me the founding principles of this country, the principles of freedom and opportunity, the value of hard work, the need to ensure that every man and woman is compensated fairly for their hard work," she said.
In naming Chao, 47, Bush selected a candidate who has headed a federal agency and has previously been through the confirmation process.
As the wife of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Chao also has loads of friends in the Senate, and supporters say all that should lead to a speedy confirmation for the former head of the Peace Corps and deputy transportation secretary under President Bush.
Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., President-elect Bush's Senate liaison, said smooth sailing is particularly desirable since the first nominee for the job, Linda Chavez, withdrew from consideration after questions surfaced about an illegal immigrant who previously lived with her.
Chao was on Bush's short list of candidates to be transportation secretary but lost out to Norman Mineta, a Democrat who currently heads the Commerce Department. Mineta was the first Asian-American Cabinet member. Chao would be the first Asian-American woman to hold a cabinet post -- something Frist called "a plus."
Political analysts say Chao is well-qualified for a top administration job, even though she hasn't spent a lot of time dealing directly with labor issues.
"Generally people with good managerial skills can adapt," said University of Virginia Political Science Professor Larry Sabato.
"She is as qualified as Senator (Spence) Abraham was for Energy," Frist said, referring to the defeated Michigan senator named to head the Energy Department. "She hasn't been as steeped in the field as some people could have been. I think that's an advantage, especially coming off a failed nomination."
Labor groups, who were vocal opponents of Chavez, have said they don't know much about Chao's views. In the past, she has indicated she opposes affirmative action, saying people should be judged on merit.
"I'm sure she'll have no problem communicating with organized labor as well as business groups," former Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner said Thursday. She worked as deputy secretary when he headed the department.
Chao was plucked from the Transportation Department in 1991 to be director of the Peace Corps, and she established the first outreach programs to the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union.
After leaving government, Chao went on to take over United Way of America from 1992-1996. She is credited with helping turn around the national charity after her predecessor was ousted.
"She came to the United Way of America probably in its darkest hour of its history," said Betty Beene, the organization's current president. "She restored the financial stability of the organization and, probably more importantly, the public trust."
Chao currently is a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative, Washington-based think tank. Sabato says that should make her palatable to conservatives, who backed Chavez.
She also sits on a number of corporate boards, including that of Northwest Airlines.
Like her husband, who just stepped down as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Chao has a zest for politics and was one of Bush's fund-raising "pioneers" during the presidential campaign. Members of that group raised at least $100,000 each for his election bid.
That didn't hurt her candidacy for this job, said Steven Weiss, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics.
"There are certainly many people out there with the qualifications to be labor secretary. Being a huge fund-raiser for President Bush could certainly help," Weiss said.
Kentucky's Republican state Chairwoman Ellen Williams said Chao was picked because of her qualifications and because she can bring people together. Williams added that Chao's nomination would not face any hurdles as Chavez's did.
"She's very upfront. She's very honest," Williams said. "Elaine is a public servant and if you choose to work in the public arena you live by a different standard and Elaine understands that."