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Andrew Card: Sometimes Nice Guys Just Leave

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The abrupt announcement that Andrew Card was resigning as chief of staff and being replaced by budget director Joshua Bolten comes as no surprise to D.C. insiders. Republicans have been calling for a White House shakeup for weeks if not longer, not to mention a strategy for turning around the President’s plummeting poll ratings. (A CNN tracking poll from November 2004 until today has the President’s approval ratings dropping from 50% to 39% while his disapproval ratings jumped from 45% to 60%.)

[ADBLOCKHERE]A Republican insider, who for obvious reasons asked to remain anonymous, offered an interesting analysis of Card’s tenure. “He’s been the least involved Chief of Staff in policy development in the modern White House,” the source said. Card was skilled at keeping the operation running smoothly but didn’t or couldn’t take on the policy role so essential in these complex times. “The Chief of Staff traditionally floats policy ideas, manages the debate, and breaks ties,” the source said. “The primary job is to do what’s right for the boss.”

Although Card had been thinking about leaving, three recent events, according to the source, probably convinced him that now was the time. “The Cheney shooting, the Dubai ports, and Katrina got him thinking ‘maybe I gotta do something different’.”

According to The New York Times,

…while many of Mr. Bush’s problems are related to increasing public uneasiness over Iraq, it was Mr. Card who took the blame for the slowness of the White House staff’s response to Hurricane Katrina and to criticism of the Dubai ports deal. Republicans have also become increasingly vocal about their perception that the White House has lost its political edge.

The source also confirmed that “Rove is still the undisputed heavy-weight champion of the White House, unless the CIA investigation brings him down.” That assessment was echoed by The New York Times, which added that “it does not represent an infusion of new blood, because Mr. Bolten is also a longtime adviser, and served as a deputy chief of staff from 2001 to 2003 before becoming budget director.”

With typical Washington impatience, many Republicans are complaining that Card’s departure isn’t enough of a shakeup. A CNN report noted that, “The names of Republican Sens. Dan Coats and Fred Thompson have been floated, amid calls for the president to bring in an unofficial ambassador to Capitol Hill to repair frayed relations with top Republicans in Congress. The name of former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot has also been mentioned.”

ABC News was perhaps the most harsh on the selection of Bolton.

People looking for a big White House shake-up to change President Bush’s political fortunes are probably going to have to keep waiting. The changing of the guard in the chief of staff’s office is unlikely to fulfill those hopes.

By letting Andy Card resign and replacing him with budget director Josh Bolten, Bush is replacing a quiet, nice, loyal, hard-working Washington insider with quiet, nice, loyal, hard-working Washington insider.

Another of Bush’s recent problems — relations with the congressional wing of his own party — is unlikely to be fixed by this change. It is true that Bolten has some very good relationships on Capitol Hill, but so does Card.

(Editorial Opinion: It says something about the state of politics today when being a quiet, nice, loyal, hard-working Washington insider is considered a disadvantage.)

Democrats, not surprisingly, jumped into the fray quickly. Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) was widely quoted as saying, “If the White House is looking to change course, they picked the wrong person to toss overboard.”

Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) was equally widely quoted: “The good news is the administration has finally realized it needs to change its ways, but the problems go far deeper than one staffer. Simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic by replacing Andy Card with Josh Bolten without a dramatic change in policy will not right this ship.”

As for Andy Card, he leaves an interesting legacy. As my source said, “Everyone loves this guy. He’s just a very nice person. In fact, he may run for governor in Massachusetts.”

That’s not a bad legacy after five and a half years in what James Baker, chief of staff under Ronald Reagan called “the worst job in Washington.”

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About Mark Schannon

Retired crisis & risk manager/communications expert; extensive public relations experience in most areas over 30 years. Still available for extraordinary opportunities of mind-numbing complexity. Life-long liberal agnostic...or is that agnostic liberal.
  • Baronius

    Chief of Staff is a lousy job, and Card handled it without many leaks, trial balloons, or whatever. Good for him. Chief of Staff is a position that Eisenhower brought the White House from the military. A future president would be wise to get rid of it entirely.

    What really struck me, though, was the ABC News piece that you linked to. It was clearly an opinion piece (more like a personal attack), but it wasn’t labeled as such. Not even “analysis”.

  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    You’re right, but that’s what network news is turning into…opinion in the guise of news. I met Card once at a dinner & he was absolutely charming and devoid of any of the arrogance or self-inflated ego that almost seems inevitable in working in the White House. But that was also his problem–the Chief of Staff has to drive policy decisions, and, according to my source, Bush wasn’t keen on that & Card wasn’t strong enough to force the issue.

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