Well, it’s not quite the independent, seasoned Washington veteran — perhaps a respected former senator or Cabinet member — that many Republicans, including former Reagan deputy chief of staff Ken Duberstein, had suggested.
The replacement of White House chief of staff Andrew Card by his former deputy and current head of the Office of Management and Budget, Joshua Bolten, may well have occurred simply because Card is ready for a less-grueling schedule for a while.
Card recently told an interviewer he routinely gets up at 4:20 a.m., gets to the office by 5:30, stays there until 8 or 9 p.m. and takes calls at home until 11. Weekends are no different. And the 58-year-old Massachusetts native, who worked on President Bush’s presidential campaign and transition team before becoming chief of staff when Bush assumed office, has maintained this schedule for 5 1/2 years.
He is the longest-serving chief of staff since Sherman Adams under Eisenhower. Most White House chiefs of staff last about two years.
By all accounts, Card has kept the trains running on time, kept under control the outsized egos who always populate a White House and gained the respect of most Washington insiders. Whatever you may think of certain Bush administration policies, Card has served his president and his country skillfully and with quiet integrity. There is talk he wants to run for governor of Massachusetts, while other pundits say he plans to become a key player in the prospective White House bid of Mitt Romney, the current Massachusetts governor.
Whether it is because Card and other key White House staffers who have been there from the beginning are tired or for other reasons, however, the Bush administration has fallen on tough times. That is why some Republican elders have counseled a shake-up. Last year saw a failed effort to reform Social Security, approval decline for the war in Iraq, missteps in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, and the ill-advised nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.
This year has seen the failure to anticipate the negative reaction to the Dubai ports deal and the unnecessary delay in announcing Vice President Cheney’s hunting accident. President Bush’s once-lofty approval ratings have fallen to 36 percent in the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.
Bolten is also a veteran Bush loyalist who is unlikely to shake things up, though he is said to have authority to make personnel changes. Columnist Robert Novak writes that “this selection becomes understandable as a confirmation of Karl Rove’s supremacy in the White House.”
We would like to see some reassessment of policy, especially in Iraq. But this president apparently does not see a need to change.