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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, May 23, 2003

EPA's Whitman quits Bush team; who's next?

Thirteen months ago in this space we indulged in a new sport — predicting which Bush Cabinet member would be the first to leave, one way or another.

Our picks at the time:

• Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose disagreements with Pentagon hawks are almost legendary, and who twice now has been dispatched on missions to the Middle East guaranteed to fail.

• Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, whose blunt outspokenness put him in conflict with his own administration (he opposed tax cuts but wanted a major battle against global warming) and, frequently, with reality. He was first to go.

• Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman, who was overwhelmed by the lobbyists and ideologues President Bush appointed to every other important environmental job.

She still claims loyalty to Bush, but now she's gone, and so is the administration's last top-ranking defender of the environment.

• Attorney General John Ashcroft who, we said, "clearly sees problems with all sorts of civil liberties, except the right to bear arms."

Which of these four would be the first to leave? we wondered. "Our guess," we concluded, "is that it won't be Ashcroft."

Were it not for his amazing resilience and dedication, we still think Powell would have been first. That said, however, we're not about to pick who's next.