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.
Alvin Felzenberg, a transition scholar at the Heritage Foundation, said the concentrated authority of Bush's three top White House advisers will "keep the president from getting isolated."
Bush advisers argued that Rove and Hughes, who worked together during the campaign without distracting discord, could continue that arrangement. "It will be a White House devoid of the historical bickering and backbiting," predicted Ed Gillespie, who advised the Bush campaign.
Bush had decided to bring a large number of his campaign and gubernatorial staff to the White House. About 200 of his campaign staffers will move to Washington. In addition to Rove and Hughes, campaign spokesman Ari Fleischer, speechwriter Mike Gerson and Bolten will play similar roles in the White House. Bush has dispatched campaign finance chief Jack Oliver to the Republican National Committee, sent campaign chairman Don Evans to be commerce secretary and is considering a top White House political job for campaign operative Maria Cino.
Lawrence Lindsey and Condoleezza Rice, who advised the campaign on economic and foreign policy, respectively, will do the same in the White House. White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and presidential personnel director Clay Johnson had similar jobs for Bush in Texas, while Albert Hawkins, Bush's Texas budget director, and Margaret La Montagne, Bush's Texas education adviser, are also likely to have key jobs.
Bush aides say the transplantation of large numbers of Bush campaign aides will give the White House an early sense of continuity and purpose. But previous White House veterans say there is a danger that Bush, like President Carter, who surrounded himself with Georgians, will be hurt by inexperience.
Bush has sought to counteract that by bringing in old pros, some from his father's administration. Card, Calio, Office of Management and Budget chief Mitch Daniels, deputy chief of staff Joseph Hagin, vice presidential chief of staff Lewis Libby and Cheney all fit into that category. Rove also notes that many other seasoned staffers less known to Bush will be brought into the White House.
In taking a White House assignment, Rove, a protege of Lee Atwater, the strategist of the president-elect's father, is doing something his mentor didn't. Rove, a history buff who has a fascination with policy, couldn't resist the opportunity.
"It's going to be a lifetime dream rewarded," he said while accepting the appointment this morning. The often combative Rove, 50, never finished college but got Bush interested in many of the pieces of what became his "compassionate conservative" agenda.
There had been rumors that Bush and Rove were having difficulty coming to terms on Rove's White House role because Hughes was named immediately but Rove's appointment was delayed. Rove was said to be requesting an unusually broad portfolio, which others had resisted.
But Rove, who received the broad assignment he desired, said today that the decision was made three weeks ago but that the announcement was delayed until the Cabinet was named. "We wanted to set the tone and make it clear he wanted to bring in a lot of different faces," Rove said.