AUSTIN, Texas — Calling his appointee for national security advisor brilliant, experienced and wise, President-elect George W. Bush on Sunday named Condoleezza Rice to the post, bestowing on the former professor a pivotal role in shaping foreign policy in the incoming administration.
In accepting the appointment, Rice, a former Stanford University provost who served as Bush's foreign policy advisor during the presidential campaign, said she was honored, and added, "It is a wonderful time for the United States in foreign policy, because it is a time when markets and democracy are spreading, when our values are being affirmed around the world, and yet it's a time of great challenge."
Bush also announced two other top appointees, naming Texas Supreme Court Justice Alberto R. Gonzales as White House counsel and Karen Hughes, his longtime communications director, as counselor to the president.
The announcements came a day after Bush named former Gen. Colin L. Powell as his secretary of State. So far, Bush has named two women, a Latino and two African Americans--Powell and Rice--to top posts in his administration.
The appointment of Rice, 46, was widely anticipated. She worked for President Bush as a Soviet affairs specialist in the National Security Council and was foreign policy advisor to George W. Bush's campaign.
"Dr. Rice is not only a brilliant person, she is an experienced person. She is a good manager. I trust her judgment," Bush said. "America will find that she is a wise person."
Gonzales, 45, a graduate of Harvard Law School, served for three years on Bush's gubernatorial staff as legal counsel. Bush later named him the Texas secretary of state.
"I know firsthand I can trust Al's judgment because he was my first counsel as governor," Bush said. "Al is a distinguished lawyer. Al is a man who has only one standard in mind when it comes to ethics--and that is the highest of high standards."
Bush also noted that Gonzales' background is "such a compelling story," marveling that he grew up in a large family in a two-bedroom house and who now will be "sitting at the right hand of the president of the United States."
Gonzales said that working with Bush in Texas for three years gave him "the opportunity to get to know the type of man that he is, how he makes his decisions." He added, "Mr. President-elect, I could not pass up the opportunity to serve with you again."
Hughes' appointment was perhaps the most important from a policymaking standpoint. As counselor to Bush, she is expected to hold a wide-ranging portfolio.
Bush simply said that Hughes, 43, will "do strategic planning."
Hughes is a fiercely loyal and trusted Bush aide with a demonstrated willingness to deliver unpleasant news or direct advice.
Indeed, Bush seemed most relaxed when introducing Hughes, joking at one point: "We knew each other when the definition of a motorcade was one car."
He said of Hughes: "She is a woman who is frank, straightforward. She has got enormous judgment as well."
Like Gonzales and Powell, Rice and Hughes have compelling up-by-the-bootstraps backgrounds.
During a brief question-and-answer session with reporters, Bush was asked whether he intended to send a message with his early appointments of women and minorities.
"You bet," the president-elect answered. The message is "that people who work hard and make the right decisions in life can achieve anything they want in America."
Rice recalled that she did not attend an integrated school until the 10th grade, when her family moved from Birmingham, Ala., to Denver.
"I think that you will see in the presidency of George W. Bush recognition of how important it is that we can continue the last 30-plus years of progress toward one America, that he will have an administration that is inclusive, an administration that is bipartisan and, perhaps most importantly, an administration that affirms that united we stand and divided we fall," Rice said.
Hughes, who has worked for Bush for 6 1/2 years, said she is the granddaughter of a coal miner who did not want his children to follow him into the mines and inculcated in them the value of an education.
Hughes grew up as an Army brat. Her father, a major general, was the last U.S. commander of the Panama Canal.
She has worked as a television reporter in Texas and as executive director of the Texas Republican Party.
After making the staff announcements at the Governor's Mansion here, Bush flew to Washington to begin two days of meetings with congressional leaders, President Clinton, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and the man Bush defeated: Vice President Al Gore.
While in Washington, Bush also intends to interview prospective Cabinet members. He said Sunday that he will announce his economic team "pretty soon."
The three senior White House appointments show that Bush has focused more intensively on assembling his senior staff than on a Cabinet. And that is no accident.