Friday, April 21, 2006

Bush Counsel May Be Next in Shake-Up

President Bush's counsel, Harriet E. Miers, was once his personal lawyer. He nominated her to the Supreme Court last year. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

I found this story through Shakespeare's Sister, and I figured I should post a few comments on it. This is actually through The Washington Post:

WASHINGTON, April 20--Joshua B. Bolten, the new White House chief of staff, has raised the possibility of moving Harriet E. Miers from her job as President Bush's counsel as part of a continuing shake-up of the West Wing, an influential Republican with close ties to Mr. Bolten said Thursday.

The Republican, who was granted anonymity to talk openly about sensitive internal White House deliberations, said that Mr. Bolten had floated the idea among confidants, but that it was unclear whether he would follow through or if the move would be acceptable to Mr. Bush, who has a longtime personal bond with Ms. Miers.

"It's a reflection of Josh's thinking," the Republican said. "It's not a prediction that he's going to get it done."

A senior White House official denied that Mr. Bolten was considering such a step. "It's not the case," said the official, who was granted anonymity to get around the administration's policy of not commenting on personnel matters.

Now this is an interesting little surprise, if Bolten is seriously considering getting rid of Miers--we're talking the president's personal lawyer and probably his closest confidant. Is Bush willing to go this far? Is Bolten pushing to see how much power he has in the White House? Continuing on with this:

Mr. Bolten's thinking about Ms. Miers, however tentative, provided an insight into the scale of his ambitions for overhauling the White House staff and, should he proceed, could amount to a test of how far he would be able to go in bringing about change.

Mr. Bolten is said by a number of Republicans in Washington to feel that Ms. Miers is indecisive, a weak manager and slow in moving vital paperwork through the system. She came to the White House in January 2001 as the staff secretary and then held one of Mr. Bolten's former jobs, deputy chief of staff for policy, before Mr. Bush appointed her as White House counsel in November 2004.

It was not clear whether Mr. Bolten was floating a trial balloon to gauge White House reaction to the idea, or whether he might have been intending to send a signal to Ms. Miers that he would like her to think about leaving on her own.

Moving Ms. Miers would be a strike at the heart of Mr. Bush's emotional bonds in the White House and would eliminate another Texan from the circle he has kept close to him in Washington. Republicans who talk regularly to senior West Wing advisers say the president has been unhappy and on edge about the staff changes that he nonetheless sees as necessary for revitalizing the West Wing.

Graphic: Changes at the White House 2001-2006. New York Times

I'm wondering if we're starting to see the beginnings of a power struggle within the Bush White House? Bolten understands that in order for him work effectively, he's going to have to clean out some of the cronies in the Bush White House, and replace them with people who would have his loyalties. So we are getting this marketing spin of staff changes in the White House that could reflect the beginnings of this power struggle within Bush's inner circle. Scotty McClellan leaves--which isn't much of a shake-up, considering his entertainment value as White House press secretary was greater than his ability to provide the White House propaganda to the press corps. Karl Rove's transfer from day-to-day domestic policy operations towards concentrating on midterm elections is an interesting move, when brought into relation whith Miers. While Rove still remains in the White House. Rove's duties have changed to where he no longer has control of domestic policy, giving Bolten some greater control over those issues. Bolten will not be able to dislodge Cheney--Cheney's still too powerful in foreign policy, and especially regarding the war in Iraq. In fact, for any serious shake-up to take place in the Bush White House, it is both defense and foreign policy teams that need to be replaced. The PNAC neocons of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and others have got to be removed, and the PNAC pipe-dream of American imperialism has to be discarded for a multilateral policy of U.S. cooperation with the world's nations on the various foreign policy issues. But the neocons are so far entrenched in the Executive Branch, that Bolten does not have the power to dislodge them.

Now a final little detail from the Post:

Republicans close to the White House said Mr. Bush was the driver of the changes made so far, including the decision to ask Mr. Rove to focus primarily on the midterm elections.

"This is not Josh, this is Bush," said the Republican close to Mr. Bolten. "Bush is very good at using other people as a vehicle to get things done."

Translation: White House marketing spin here. Bush is not the driver of the changes made so far--Josh Bolten is. Bush is not using other people to get things done for him, Bolten is using the president to get things done for Bolten. I just can't see George Bush trying to force his longtime friend, personal lawyer and confidant of Harriet Miers out. Also remember, "president has been unhappy and on edge about the staff changes" that were made. This president likes a consistent, regular team. He prizes loyalty above everything else. He loves 'yes men,' and not dissenters, or those who enjoy debate. So this "shake-up" is not going too well with the president. However, Bush is probably also realizing that his poll numbers have not changed, despite all the White House marketing spin that has been generated. If the poll numbers do not change before November, then the Republican lose control of Congress to the Democrats, and the Democrats will start their own investigations into the numerous White House scandals. And that is the last thing that the White House wants to deal with.

We'll have to see what comes out of this possible trial balloon on Miers.

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