The White House Shakeup Begins

The White House has announced some shakeups in staffing today. Press Secretary Scott McClellan is leaving, and Karl Rove is giving up his policy portfolio to concentrate on politics in advance of the 2006 elections.

These are all good changes. McClellan had an extremely difficult job, but always gave the impression that he was letting the White House Press Corps using him as a punching bag. He was no Ari Fleischer, who did a great job in Bush’s first years in office. Suggested replacements include FoxNews journalist Tony Snow, former DoD Press Secretary Victoria Clarke, and former White House press official Den Senor. Any one of the three would be a solid pick. Tony Snow has the journalistic connections to make nice with the press corps, Victoria Clarke has solid experience from her days at Defense, and Senor was the number two man to Fleischer and knows the job well. The Bush Administration’s press efforts have been lackluster at best, and hopefully this shakeup will result in more effective relations with the increasingly hostile press.

Karl Rove is an excellent political operator, which is why his move is a sound one. On policy matters, he’s been asleep at the wheel. The Bush Administration has made policy blunder after policy blunder after policy blunder, all on Rove’s watch. When it comes to pioneering techniques for numerical analysis in elections, Karl Rove is one of the world’s best political operatives. When it comes to sound policy, Rove doesn’t seem to measure up. The POTUS needs a strong hand in policy who will work with Capitol Hill to get an agenda through. Someone with strong conservative credentials, and a clear-headed view of policy issues. The Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, and other think tanks are full of people who would fit the bill. It’s just a matter of finding the right one.

Bush has needed to clear the decks for a while. The White House’s political and policy directions have both been rudderless on a storm of constant bad press and missteps. Bush needs to set the nation’s agenda, not let his political opponents do it for him. If he can’t do that, he’ll spend the next two-and-a-half years as a lame duck. Bush should have fought when he ran (Social Security reform), and run when he fought (Dubai, Harriet Miers). Bush runs the White House like an MBA would, relying on the expertise of his team, and his team hasn’t produced the results. Hopefully this team will do better in setting the White House on a strong course towards more fiscal responsibility, better public policy, and stronger public communications.

UPDATE: Joel Kaplan will be taking over Karl Rove’s policy portfolio. He’s a former Marine and a Harvard J.D. I’m not sure how deep his policy background goes, but hopefully he’ll be able to keep the White House on the right policy track.

One thought on “The White House Shakeup Begins

  1. This is definitely the best move the White House has made in months, at least. Regardless of how much I may agree with them, their PR and policy strategies have been virtually non-existent.

    I’m actually optimistic that they’ll get better now.

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