Bush chief of staff resigns

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Andy Card will be replaced by budget director Joshua Bolten.

WASHINGTON -- Andy Card was tugged in two directions.

He wanted to notch the record as the longest-serving White House chief of staff. But Card, always the loyal lieutenant, wanted to do what's best for President Bush. And that meant quitting.

Republicans were clamoring for a White House shake-up after the failed nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, the collapse of a deal to allow an Arab company to manage U.S. ports and other problems. The GOP's concerns were heightened by anxiety over midterm congressional elections in November. Card, as chief of staff, became a target for blame.

In a March 8 meeting with Bush, Card said he thought he should go.

"He's someone who knows that there comes a time when it's time to move on and allow someone else to come in," presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said of Card.

Card's resignation was announced Tuesday by Bush. Card was replaced by budget director Joshua Bolten, who was given authority to make further changes in a White House staff that even Republicans have complained is tired, insular and lacking fresh ideas.

Appearing with Bush in the Oval Office, Bolten gave no hint about what, if any, shake-up he might order. But White House officials said no one should doubt his ability to replace Bush aides. "He'll have all the authority he needs ... to make the decisions that he feels best, working with the president," McClellan said.

Like Card, Bolten, 51, is a Washington insider whose ties reach back to Bush's 2000 campaign for the White House. Democrats -- as well as some Republicans -- grumbled that the new White House boss looked a lot like the old one.

Bush said of Bolten, "He's a man of candor and humor and directness, who's comfortable with responsibility and knows how to lead. No person is better prepared for this important position."

Before being named budget director in 2003, Bolten was Card's deputy chief of staff for policy.

Democrats said Card's departure wasn't enough. "Simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic by replacing Andy Card with Josh Bolten without a dramatic change in policy will not right this ship," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

Said Democratic National Committee communications director Karen Finney: "As the saying goes, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. Unfortunately for the American people, all President Bush did today was make it clear that they should expect nothing more than the same failed policies they have come to know all too well."

With nearly 5 1/2 years under his belt, Card had been well on his way toward surpassing Sherman Adams' nearly six-year record as the longest serving chief of staff -- under Dwight Eisenhower. Bush weighed Card's offer to leave and decided over the weekend at Camp David to accept the resignation and replace Card with Bolten, McClellan said.

"Ecclesiastes reminds us that there are different seasons, and there is a new season," said Card, whose wife is a Methodist minister.

To the public, Card may be best known as the aide who calmly walked into a Florida classroom and whispered to Bush that America was under attack on Sept. 11, 2001. A veteran of every Republican administration back to Ronald Reagan's, Card is respected in Washington as fair, smart and hardworking -- the first to arrive at the White House around 5:30 a.m. and often the last to leave at night.

Card, 58, stood stoically with his hands by his sides as Bush lauded his years of service. Then, gripping the podium, Card said in his farewell: "You're a good man, Mr. President."

Card's eyes were watery. He said he looked forward to just being Bush's friend. Bush then gave him five quick slaps on the back, and the two walked out of the Oval Office together.

"Andy Card, a longtime friend of mine, is tired," Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, told reporters later. "That he stayed in this job this long shows how much he cares about this country."

As chief of staff, Bolten will regulate the paper flow to Bush's desk, oversee his schedule and determine who gets in to see the president -- although some longtime aides have unquestioned access.

Bolten was budget chief when the government ran its three largest deficits ever, including the record $413 billion shortfall in 2004 -- though most of that was because of the economy and years of decision-making by presidents and lawmakers.

"Josh Bolten has a record of failure," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "Look at what he's done with our national debt."

But Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said Bush had made a wise decision in picking Bolten. "His reputation among Democrats and Republicans alike is being a tough-minded, skilled conservative but also has an ability to work with Congress, work with Democrats as well as Republicans."

Rejecting charges of staff inertia, McClellan said half of Bush's senior aides have been replaced since the president's re-election in 2004. But some in Bush's inner circle -- such as Texans Rove, Bartlett, Miers and McClellan himself -- remain at the White House after 5 1/2 years.

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