WASHINGTON – President Bush on Monday picked Carlos Gutierrez (search), chief executive officer of the Kellogg Co., to be secretary of commerce.
If confirmed by the Senate, Gutierrez would replace Commerce Secretary Don Evans (search), who announced his departure shortly after the election.
"As CEO of the Kellogg company, he has been an effective visionary executive. He understands the world of business from the first rung on the ladder to the very top. He knows exactly what it takes to help American businesses grow and create jobs," Bush said during an announcement in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.
Gutierrez, who is Cuban-born and started out in 1975 as a sales representative for Kellogg Company distributing Frosted Flakes out of a van in Mexico City, said he believed "passionately" in the president's vision of a "21st century where America is the best country in the world with which to do business.
"I believe in [Bush's] call for a vibrant, growing entrepreneurial society, where everyone has the opportunity to experience the joy and the pride of ownership, where everyone can contribute and where everyone can benefit. I have had the opportunity to live that American dream so I know the president's vision is noble, I know it's real and I know it's tangible," Gutierrez said.
As commerce secretary, Gutierrez will be responsible for building trade relationships and promoting U.S. exports. However, the position is not one that generally develops policy.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who was also born in Cuba, said she was pleased with Bush's decision to nominate Gutierrez.
"It is a great honor and a source of pride for us to have another Hispanic serving in the president's Cabinet and this truly demonstrates the president's commitment to Hispanics and our beliefs and values," she said.
Evans, 58, is a close and longtime friend of the president and was instrumental in Bush's 2000 campaign. Evans told aides he was ready for a change and wanted to return home to Texas, where his family already has gone.
"Don has been a strong and steady advocate for America's businesses and workers and entrepreneurs. Don has also been my friend for over three decades. I've counted on his wisdom and optimism and character at every step on my journey to the White House," Bush said during his announcement of Gutierrez's nomination.
Evans had been mentioned as a possible White House chief of staff in Bush's second term, but the president decided to keep Andy Card in that job. The outgoing commerce secretary is just one of five senior members of the Bush team who have announced they are departing, and is likely to do so fairly early in the second term.
Other members of Bush's economic team have handed in notice that they plan to leave the administration, and more departures are expected.
Bush is revamping the team in anticipation of his plan to deliver three campaign promises — reforming Social Security (search) and the nation's income tax system and limiting medical malpractice (search) awards.
The president has said the Social Security changes are needed to keep the system from going bankrupt. He wants to let people invest a portion of their taxes in the private market, though the upheaval may cost up to $2 trillion before the books balance.
Bush has also pledged to limit medical malpractice awards as a means of lowering health care costs, and he says the income tax system is unfair and too complex.
Aside from resignations from big names like Attorney General John Ashcroft and Secretary of State Colin Powell, sources said Treasury Secretary John Snow could be on his way out. While Snow has not announced his departure, the sources said it would be unlikely for Snow to leave in the middle of the Social Security and tax reform efforts, which means his decision to leave would be made sooner rather than later.
Bush's chief economic adviser, Stephen Friedman, has announced his resignation. Officials said he's not interested in taking over Snow's job, so a Cabinet position would not lure him into staying.
Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, is already on leave. If he returns at all, it isn't likely to be for long. Mankiw stirred the pot early this year when he wrote in the administration's annual economic report that sending jobs out of the United States "makes more sense" when the goods or services involved can be produced more cheaply abroad.
Mankiw was forced to apologize for the remarks that he said were "far from clear and were misinterpreted." Mankiw hasn't given notice yet, but he's a Harvard professor with tenure to protect.