© 2022 All Rights reserved WUSF
News, Jazz, NPR
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Slate's Politics: Will Card Resignation Soothe GOP?


This is DAY TO DAY. Coming up, with speak with an Iraqi political leader about the breakdown in efforts to form a new government, and a troubling dispute with the U.S. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Alex Chadwick. First, a change in the American government. The longtime chief of staff to President Bush is resigning. Andrew Card will be replaced by another insider, the budget official Joshua Bolten, who spoke to reporters this morning with Mr. Card and Mr. Bush beside him.

Presidential Chief of Staff JOSHUA BOLTEN: Mr. President, the agenda ahead is exciting. You've set a clear course to protect our people at home, to promote freedom abroad, and to expand our prosperity. I'm grateful for Andy's willingness to stay on for a couple of weeks to help break me in, and then I'm anxious to get to work.

CHADWICK: John Dickerson, chief political correspondent for the online magazine Slate is with us. John, Joshua Bolten is not an outsider in Bush circles. Who is this guy?

Mr. JOHN DICKERSON (Chief Political Columnist, Slate magazine): Well, Josh Bolten has been around for a long time. He went down to Austin to help then Governor Bush with his policy preparation. He ran the shop that put together the president's, then Governor, his policy positions, and then he came with him to Washington. He's worked as his deputy chief of staff, and now he's the director of the office of management and budget.

It won't take him two weeks to get broken in. It will take him just a few minutes.

CHADWICK: So he know where the furniture is and the restrooms, and all that sort of thing. But there have been a lot of calls on the part of Republican leaders and Republicans around the country that they needed a change in the Bush administration following just, you know, a rough six months the President's had. Is this the change they're looking for?

Mr. DICKERSON: This is certainly not the change that the unnamed Bush advisors have called for, or that the pundits have called for. But we probably shouldn't have expected such a thing from the Bush White House, anyway. This is not a President who makes a lot of showy acts for the sake of making showy acts, and so he's picked somebody who has inside power, who's very diligent, very well-respected, and who actually might be able to get some things changed from the inside.

He knows where the bodies are buried. He knows what the problems are. Anybody looking for radical change out of this White House is looking for the wrong thing. I think what people should take away from the Bolten selection is that if there's going to be change, he's probably the person who can bring it about.

CHADWICK: What does the chief of staff position mean, anyway, for most of us who are following the news? Is this something that changes government policy? I mean, Mr. Card has held this job much longer than the average chief of staff. Does he have a mark on the government?

Mr. DICKERSON: He has a bit of a mark. The job has changed under Andy Card. In previous administrations, the chief of staff had a more powerful and central role in the administration. Some people would say James Baker sort of ran the country at the beginning of the Reagan administration. Under President Bush, Andy Card has acted as a kind of manager. There are a lot of powerful personalities and egos in the Bush orbit, and Card manages things more than plays that central powerful role that maybe chief of staffs had in the past.

And so with Vice President Cheney, Karl Rove and others around the president, the chief of staff has to be kind of again a manager more than the person in the room shouting the loudest.

CHADWICK: Well, Mr. Cheney's not going anywhere, and Mr. Rove doesn't appear to be going anywhere, so you wonder, sort, of what exactly Joshua Bolten think's his tasks are going to be.

Mr. DICKERSON: Well, he is an implementer. And so, to the extent that the president recognizes there needs to be change inside the organization of the White House, if he puts Bolten in charge of making those changes, they will happen. This all relies on the president recognizing some need for change.

We're not going to hear much about this at the public level. They're not going to come out and hold a press conference and say here are all the failures we've had, and here are the changes we're going to make, but if the president recognizes there needs to be change and puts Bolten in charge of the task, he does both have the power and the constitutional capability of going to those powerful people and saying, this is what we're going to do. And if he's got the president behind him, he'll get it done.

CHADWICK: Here's an example of a kind of thing that he would have to decide. Immigration reform, I mean, this is a very hot topic today in the Senate. What are you hearing there? What's going on at the White House? And does Mr. Bush feel that he's ahead or not at this point?

Mr. DICKERSON: Well, it's all very much up in the air. There's been some movement in the Senate towards the President's position. The committee in charge of the bill has moved towards the President's position, but there are a lot of other Republicans who don't want an amnesty or guest worker program. So, the president's going to have to exert pressure. The problem is his relations with Congress aren't very good, and Josh Bolten's not going to fix that.

CHADWICK: Analysis and opinion from John Dickerson. He's chief political correspondent for the online magazine Slate. John, thanks for being with us again.

Mr. DICKERSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.