By Michael Abramowitz
Monday, September 10, 2007
While President Bush was in Australia last week, the White House completed the divvying-up of Karl Rove's sizable and important portfolio.
Rove's longtime deputy Barry Jackson is taking over management of the four offices Rove supervised (political affairs, intergovernmental relations, public liaison and strategic initiatives), while new White House counselor Ed Gillespie will assume Rove's more amorphous role of providing Bush broader strategic advice -- with an assist from Jackson and communications chief Kevin Sullivan.
Jackson is one of those Washington worker bees who is virtually unknown outside the White House fence but is well-regarded inside. Early in the Bush presidency, he coordinated the so-called Strategery Group, the senior officials who met regularly for long-term planning under Rove's auspices.
Until he joined the White House in 2001, the District native was perhaps best known as a key operative, promoter and chief of staff for Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), now House minority leader. Jackson impressed Rove with his assistance in the 2000 campaign, including helping to manage the GOP convention in Philadelphia and organizing a group of Republican governors to campaign on Bush's behalf.
Jackson is seen as cool, analytical and fiercely partisan -- "none of this 'let's get along' kind of stuff," in the words of one GOP acquaintance from Capitol Hill, who described Jackson "as the man behind The Man."
Jackson was not doing interviews last week, but Rove spoke up on his behalf, describing his friend as kind of an adept utility player who handled outreach and coordination with outside groups on thorny domestic issues such as trade, the farm bill and immigration.
"If there was something I was worried about falling through the cracks, that involved external outreach, I would put it on Barry's agenda," Rove said. "If there was a need for the president to make a phone call, it happened. If there was a need for the president to meet with advocates in the Roosevelt Room, it happened."
Plus, Rove said, "no one inside the administration pays more careful attention and understands with greater moral clarity the intricacies of NASCAR than Barry Jackson."
One thing Jackson will not enjoy is Rove's title-- deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to the president -- which reflected Rove's immense influence in the White House. Jackson is now "assistant to the president for strategic initiatives and external affairs."Filling Snow's Shoes
When Dana Perino was named to replace outgoing White House press secretary Tony Snow, the conventional wisdom was that she had the substance but little of the flash that Snow brought to the job. That may be true at the briefing podium, but her potential star power was very much on display when Perino joined President Bush last week on his surprise visit to Iraq's al-Asad Air Base.
The desert installation is home to 10,000 U.S. troops, and they treated the stylish Perino like a celebrity, reports Post reporter Michael Fletcher, who was on the trip with Bush. She rivaled "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric for attention from the troops, who repeatedly asked her to pose for pictures in their midst.
Perino said she was happy to oblige. "I am very humbled by our troops -- they are some of the most decent, honorable and courageous on Earth," she said. "And I was thrilled to meet some of the Iraqi security forces, too. I could tell there was mutual respect and a shared goal between them. It was a great trip."A Tale of Two Departures
The usually circumspect Joshua B. Bolten, the White House chief of staff, seemed to confirm last week, in a backhanded way, that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales received a push out the door as he resigned last month.
In an interview on PBS's "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" last week, Bolten was asked whether he convinced Bush that Gonzales had to go. "I think Alberto came to the realization that, as unfair as the attacks on him over the last several months have been, that at some point you need to let that unfairness, in a sense, stand, and step aside for the good of the department," Bolten replied.
So did a similar circumstance lead to Rove's departure? Lehrer asked.
"That was completely up to Karl," Bolten said. "All of us at the White House would have loved to have had him stay and continue to contribute in the way he does, because he's a brilliant character, but everybody also accepted that this was the time in his life to move on."Happy (Early) New Year
There was quizzical reaction around town among the president's Jewish friends and supporters after the White House sent out Bush's official Rosh Hashanah greetings on Sept. 5 -- one week before the start of the Jewish New Year. Onetime Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, who, like Bolten, is Jewish, sent Bolten an e-mail asking why the White House had seemingly flubbed the date.
Bush spokesman Tony Fratto said the White House typically sends out such greetings four to seven days before the actual holiday, so that churches and synagogues have an opportunity to print them in their newsletters.
"What's interesting is that this is the first time I've been here for Rosh Hashanah, and I've heard about the 'early release' from a few people," Fratto said by e-mail. "I don't remember anyone calling about an 'early message' for Easter, Christmas, 4th of July, or any other holiday message."A Tale of Two Hires
The new book by journalist Robert Draper, "Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush," is attracting a lot of attention inside and outside the White House for the unusual access granted its author, a national correspondent for GQ magazine. There are a host of curious little details sprinkled throughout, such as the purported reaction from the president to Bolten's obsessive wooing of Goldman Sachs chief Henry Paulson to become Treasury secretary.
Bolten asked Bush to turn on the charm, which the president did but with some reluctance. "He should be begging me!" Bush snapped.
Draper also writes that Bolten first approached Donald Rumsfeld's old press secretary Torie Clarke about becoming White House press secretary after Scott McClellan quit in 2006. Clarke purportedly told Bolten she would rather commit suicide. The chief of staff then turned to Snow.
Snow, by the way, mangled several run-throughs -- failing to recite the White House talking points on Iraq -- but was given the job anyway, according to Draper.Quote of the Week
Bush, addressing Australian Prime Minister John Howard at the opening of his speech to business leaders attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit:
"Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your introduction. Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit. I appreciate -- APEC summit. He invited me to the OPEC summit next year."