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Bush Names Rove Political Strategist

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By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 5, 2001

AUSTIN, Jan. 4 -- President-elect Bush named his top political strategist to hold a similar role in the White House, completing a troika of advisers that will dominate decision-making in the Bush White House.

The three -- Karl Rove, today named to be Bush's senior adviser, designated chief of staff Andrew Card and designated counselor Karen Hughes -- will have approximately equal power and separate spheres of influence, Bush aides say. In the arrangement, similar to the first Reagan administration's troika of Michael Deaver, Edwin Meese III and James A. Baker III, Rove will govern strategic and political decisions, Hughes will create the public face of the White House, and Card will handle day-to-day operations.

With the naming today of Rove and of Nicholas E. Calio to be the administration's top lobbyist on Capitol Hill, the senior staff of the Bush White House is nearly complete. The picture emerging is one of fierce loyalty and a strong chain of command, dominated by campaign advisers, Texans and Bush family loyalists.

The White House power structure will be much broader than three people, Bush advisers are quick to note. Policy head Josh Bolten, a deputy chief of staff, has developed a close relationship with Bush and will have an important voice in administration decisions. And the incoming vice president, Richard B. Cheney, will have unprecedented power in the Bush administration, as he has had in the transition, and his influence may override the traditional White House power centers.

Scholars of the presidency and former White House officials say that with his selections, Bush has built a White House staff that appears to be highly structured and disciplined and designed to dictate the president's priorities to his Cabinet. And they add that Bush is likely to avoid many of the organizational missteps that characterized the early days of the Clinton administration. On the other hand, they say, his selection of a trio of top advisers risks creating a situation with rival power centers and confusion.

"If power is shared by a troika, then a chief of staff is not a chief of staff," said Martha Kumar, who directs the Pew Charitable Trusts' White House 2001 Project. "Having more than one center of gravity is difficult in a White House. Everyone in the White House is always looking for the go-to person. If there's a sense of power being shared, that can be difficult for a coordinated White House."

In a brief announcement in Austin this morning, the president-elect also said his campaign manager and former chief of staff, Joe Allbaugh, would become head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Allbaugh, along with Rove and Hughes, formed the "Iron Triangle" of Bush insiders who ran a tight ship during the campaign.

"During the course of the campaign, much was made of the so-called Texas Iron Triangle," Bush said in announcing the appointments of Rove and Allbaugh. "It's a wonderful pleasure to announce the triangle has been completed and that these two good men and their families will be joining us in Washington, D.C."

With Allbaugh outside of the White House, Bush will create a new trio of top advisers with Card. "This will be the platinum triangle," said Mark McKinnon, who created Bush's campaign ads.

Rove has been given authority over the White House Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Public Liaison and the newly created Office of Strategic Initiatives, which will handle long-term planning. Card has decided to abolish the White House's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, which coordinated with state and local governments; that task has been given to the policy department.

While Rove presides over the strategic and the political, Hughes will have broad authority over communications, scheduling, speechwriting and the press office; she'll control where the president goes and which topics merit public appearances.

Card will handle the circadian business of governing. Rove, in an interview, said he and Hughes will yield to the chief of staff's authority. "Andy Card will be the first among equals," Rove said.


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