LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — President-elect Bill Clinton stayed largely behind closed doors Sunday as he prepared for a week of activity including a trip to Washington today and Tuesday and his first announcements of Cabinet nominees, which are expected Wednesday or Thursday.
With his decision to announce Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.) as secretary of the Treasury now widely acknowledged, Clinton spent most of the day relaxing, according to aides who said that no additional interviews with Cabinet prospects were scheduled for the day. The President-elect made only one public appearance during the day--to go to church.
In the meantime, Clinton's top economic advisers spent most of the afternoon meeting to discuss next week's two-day economic conference here, trying to decide what ideas the Clinton team would present to the roughly 200 people who are expected to be invited to the sessions.
The economic conference is intended to be the culmination of a week of activities designed to showcase Clinton's professed intention to focus on the economy during the early days of his Administration.
Today, Clinton will travel to Washington, stopping first in Chicago for a speech and question-and-answer session at a community college with a largely black, working-class student body. During the campaign, Clinton talked often of the need to increase education and training programs to improve job prospects for high school graduates who do not plan to attend a four-year college.
Unlike Clinton's first trip to Washington last month, which featured high-profile meetings with President Bush at the White House and a photogenic walk through an inner-city neighborhood, the current trip is focused on Capitol Hill.
Clinton's planners intend to use the trip to make two points. Democratic aides hope that the pictures of Clinton meeting with members of Congress will send the general public a message that he is serious about breaking the deadlocks that have blocked action on pressing issues in Washington for the last few years.
At the same time, they have worked hard to reassure members of Congress that Clinton, unlike Jimmy Carter, the last Democratic President, values their opinions and is eager to consult with them on his plans.
Congressional aides say that Clinton will meet with newly elected members of the House, hoping to forge alliances with members of the largest freshman class of legislators in four decades. But he will balance those appeals with separate meetings with the committee chairmen of both the House and Senate, the veteran legislators whose support he will need to move his legislative agenda forward.
Clinton also plans to attend another high-society Washington dinner--this one at the home of Katharine Graham, chairwoman of the Washington Post Co.
In between those sessions, Clinton also plans a series of meetings with transition aides in Washington and may interview a few more Cabinet prospects, although aides indicate that he already has tentatively made up his mind on many of the new Administration's key posts and is only awaiting the results of background checks before making his announcements.
The first announcements are expected to come either Wednesday or Thursday and will focus primarily on the members of Clinton's economic team, with Bentsen the all-but-certain choice for the Treasury and other advisers such as Wall Street investment bankers Robert E. Rubin and Roger Altman, Harvard lecturer Robert B. Reich and World Bank chief economist Lawrence Summers. Altman, a friend of Clinton's since college days, is expected to be named as Bentsen's deputy while Reich, Rubin and Summers are the leading candidates to fill White House economic policy jobs.
Clinton is also likely to name his choice to head the Office of Management and Budget. Aides say that Rep. Leon E. Panetta (D-Carmel Valley) and Brookings Institution economist Alice Rivlin are leading candidates.
In addition, Clinton aides suggest that the President-elect may name some other Cabinet choices, particularly women and minorities to diversify an initial group of appointees that otherwise would be dominated by white men.