OMB Head To Replace Card as Top Bush Aide

By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 29, 2006

President Bush took the first step in what aides say may be a second-term overhaul of his beleaguered administration yesterday as he announced the departure of longtime Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr.

Card offered his resignation earlier this month, saying it would be best for the president.

Bush named Joshua B. Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace Card, and indicated that more changes are in the offing. Card's resignation comes after a series of political missteps that have contributed to Bush's sinking approval rating and prompted some Republicans to urge a staff shake-up.

White House officials emphasized that Bolten would have the prerogative to bring in fresh staff members and revamp operations to suit his leadership style. The White House must find a replacement for domestic policy adviser Claude A. Allen, who resigned after being accused of stealing from retail stores, and now a new budget director. At least one or two other senior officials are expected to leave for their own reasons by the end of the school year this spring, a senior official said.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan would not speculate on the future of other high-level White House staff members, including Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, Bush's top political strategist, who has been under investigation by a special prosecutor in the CIA leak case.

"All of us here serve at the pleasure of the president. And that's important to keep in mind," McClellan said. ". . . But I think it's premature to try to speculate about what, if any, decisions might come."

Card, who served nearly 5 1/2 years as Bush's chief of staff, said he will stay on until April 14 to ease Bolten's transition. Speaking from the Oval Office, Bush thanked Card for his "wise counsel, his calm in crisis, his absolute integrity, and his tireless commitment to public service."

Bush went on to describe Bolten as a "creative policy thinker" who is an expert on the budget and economy and who has earned the respect of Congress and knows how to lead. "No person is better prepared for this important position," he said.

In picking Bolten, Bush once again chose not to reach beyond his inner circle to fill a critical post. With many Republicans concerned that Bush's flagging popularity will hurt them in this fall's midterm elections, some have been urging him to select a seasoned Washington veteran the way Ronald Reagan brought in former Senate majority leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.) when his presidency's second term was listing.

But Bush instead turned to someone he knows and trusts implicitly. A confidant of the president's, Bolten, 51, served as deputy White House chief of staff in Bush's first term before moving to head the budget office at a time when spending on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the expensive new Medicare prescription drug benefit and the recovery from Hurricane Katrina, caused deficits to spiral.

In an attempt to accommodate the new spending demands, Bolten oversaw two consecutive budgets that reduced spending on many housing, education and other social-service programs. Still, many Republicans in Congress have complained that the administration has not done enough to rein in federal expenditures.

Taking the microphone after Bush's announcement, Bolten said he was "deeply honored" by the opportunity to succeed Card. "The agenda ahead is exciting," he said. ". . . I am anxious to get to work."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company