Earlier versions of this story incorrectly said Dan Bartlett's third child was a girl. The baby, born this year, is a boy. This version has been corrected. Also, the article misspelled the last name of Boston University interim dean Tobe Berkovitz.
Key Aide To Bush Will Resign Next Month
Saturday, June 2, 2007
White House counselor Dan Bartlett, one of President Bush's closest and most trusted aides, said yesterday that he will resign his post in July, leaving a void in an administration that has seen a string of departures as it struggles with sagging public approval ratings.
Bartlett, the father of three young children, said he will seek work in the private sector so he can spend more time with his family. The announcement came on his 36th birthday. "I've had competing families. And, unfortunately, the Bush family has prevailed too many times, and it's high time for the Bartlett family to prevail," he told reporters.
He has spent virtually his entire career working for Bush, starting in 1993, as Bush prepared for his first gubernatorial campaign in Texas. That relationship has allowed Bartlett to speak candidly with the president and to expand his strategic communications role into that of a policy adviser to the president with a portfolio.
The White House says it is looking outside for his replacement, but high-ranking aides acknowledged that the ease of communication afforded by Bartlett's 14-year relationship with Bush will be impossible to duplicate.
"Dan is very straightforward, incredibly smart, thoughtful, a good listener and comfortable in his own skin," said Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser. "That makes him someone who can speak plainly to the president of the United States."
Karen P. Hughes, Bartlett's predecessor as presidential counselor, who is now an undersecretary of state, said it is inevitable that whoever replaces Bartlett will have a different kind of interaction with the president. "It doesn't mean it will be better or worse," she said. "It will be different."
Bartlett's departure comes as the Bush administration's top priorities, including the war in Iraq and the campaign to spread democracy across the globe, have suffered setbacks. At home, polls have shown that only a third of Americans approve of Bush's job performance, and international surveys show that respect for the United States is at a low ebb around the world -- heightening the need for an effective communications strategy.
Bartlett's resignation "is a problem for George Bush, who needs strong and politically savvy advisers to crawl through the next year and a half of his term as president," said Tobe Bercovitz, a veteran political communications consultant and interim dean of Boston University's College of Communication. "Compounding the problem is the lack of first-rate political gurus who want to have their reputations tarnished by being part of the Bush White House."
White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten said he is confident that Bartlett's replacement will be named by the end of the month. "I think we'll be well positioned for a smooth transition," he said. "My experience here at the White House is, whenever we lose a key player, there is always someone exceptional willing to step in or step up."
In a statement announcing Bartlett's departure, Bush said: "Dan has been a true counselor to the president. His contribution has been immeasurable."
Bartlett has not only overseen the White House news media operation, whose most visible face is spokesman Tony Snow, but has also helped shape Bush's larger message. He helped vet speeches, plan events and otherwise shape a communication strategy aimed at ensuring that the president's message is heard and understood by audiences across the globe.
"My role at the White House started off much more narrowly, doing the day-in, day-out execution of communication," Bartlett said in an interview. "As it changed into a counselor role, it became more strategic, and it became policy and communications all wrapped into one."