Signs of Change

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Thursday, March 23, 2006; 12:39 PM

As it becomes more evident that the country is simply tuning out President Bush's shopworn talking points on Iraq, there are increasing signs that the White House is considering a change in approach -- in the form of new blood and a new script.

At his Tuesday press conference, Bush fueled rumors of a staff change when he was asked if he intends to bring in an old Washington hand to supplement or replace the loyal aides who have guided him until now.

"Well, I'm not going to announce it right now," he said.

Adam Nagourney and Elisabeth Bumiller write in the New York Times: "President Bush's suggestion on Tuesday that he may add a new senior figure to his White House team raised questions about the future of two of his closest and most powerful aides, Andrew H. Card Jr. and Karl Rove, as they struggle to put Mr. Bush's White House back on course. . . .

"In a brief interview, Mr. Rove dismissed the notion that he was fatigued or had lost his touch.

" 'We're all energized,' Mr. Rove said. 'Whether we're on our game or not -- I'm an idiot one day and a genius the next -- that's the way it is. You can't pay attention to that.' . . .

"One person who met Mr. Rove said he attributed Mr. Bush's problems more to external events, in particular Hurricane Katrina and Iraq, than to anything the White House did wrong."

Here's an irresistible Rove anecdote: "At a party at the British Embassy when Mr. Bush and Mr. Card were on their way to India, Mr. Rove was asked by a group of guests how things were going.

" 'Everybody's away, so I'm running the country,' Mr. Rove replied, playing off his caricature as an all-powerful behind-the-scenes puppet master."

Meanwhile, Newsweek's Howard Fineman suggests that with the current "global war on terror" script bombing, White House image makers are tuning a new script in which the president reprises his role as an American hero by declaring war on faint-hearted Democrats and the unpatriotic media.

"The revamped story line is WATITH (the 'war against terrorists inside the homeland')" and Bush's "enemies will be different: not just the terrorists themselves, but also [faint-hearted] lovers of legalistic niceties that get in the way of investigations and MSM news organizations that focus obsessively on explosions and mayhem in Iraq, even as they print or broadcast classified information and ask nasty, argumentative questions at hastily called press conferences. . . .

"It takes some chutzpah to do this rewrite," writes Fineman.

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