WASHINGTON, DCIn response to increasing criticism of his handling of the war in Iraq and the disaster in the Gulf Coast, as well as other issues, such as Social Security reform, the national deficit, and rising gas prices, President Bush is expected to appoint someone to run the U.S. as soon as Friday.
"During these tumultuous times, America is in need of a bold, resolute person who can get the job done," said Bush during a press conference Monday. "My fellow Americans, I assure you that I will appoint just such a person with all due haste."
The Cabinet-level position, to be known as Secretary of the Nation, was established by an executive order Sept. 2, but has remained unfilled in the intervening weeks.
"I've been talking to folks from all across this country, from Louisiana to Los Angeles, and people tell me the same thing: This nation needs a strong, compassionate leader," Bush said. "In response to these concerns, I'm making this a top priority. I will name a good, qualified person as soon as possible."
Among the new secretary's duties are preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution of the United States, commanding the U.S. armed forces, appointing judges and ambassadors, and vetoing congressional legislation. The secretary will also be tasked with overseeing all foreign and domestic affairs, including those relating to the economy, natural disasters, national infrastructure, homeland security, poverty, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The secretary will report directly to the president.
For weeks, members of both political parties have been urging Bush to fill the post.
"Every day the president waits is another day he's accountable for needless deaths at home and abroad, the stagnating economy, and the threat of terrorism," Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said. "This post is far too vital to be left vacant. Mr. President, there is no reason to delay."
"I applaud the president's decision to find a strong leader for our country, but it's imperative that he make his selection soon," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), adding that he and all Democrats hope to work closely with the new national executive.
"In the spirit of bipartisanship, we will welcome the new secretary," Reid said. "Together, we will strive for a new dawn of American politics, one unmarred by partisan bickering between Congress and the White House."
According to a nationwide poll conducted by the Cook Political Report, the majority of U.S. citizens find the question of national leadership to be highly significant, with 61 percent of respondents "strongly" believing that the country is suffering from a leadership vacuum. Fifty-four percent said they trusted Bush to find an appointee who will be able to effectively manage the country.
While many Beltway insiders have named senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and John McCain (R-AZ) as likely candidates, White House sources revealed that Bush may be leaning toward a stalwart loyalist. The list reportedly includes fellow Yale graduates, Midland, TX business associates, and various GOP fundraisers with connections to the Bush family.
"Despite their inexperience in government, they've clearly passed the Bush character test," said a White House staffer who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "I think the president is looking for someone he's comfortable with and can trust, above all else. A [former FEMA director] Michael Brown type, or maybe even Brown himself."
Bush said the creation of the Secretary of the Nation post directly addresses the increasingly complex and sometimes overwhelming challenges facing the executive branch in the 21st century. Although he acknowledged that the tasks facing the new appointee will be extraordinary, Bush ended his announcement on a positive note.
"As your president, it is my duty to see this nation through any crisis, no matter how severe. And as your president, I pledge to you that I will find a man capable of doing just that," Bush said. "I will notI repeat, I will notlet you down."