The Happy Leftie

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

White House Shake-up: McClellan out, Rove assigned to '06 election-theft

We won't have Scottie McClellan to kick around anymore! Washington's official whirling dervish finally had it up to here with spinning to save the preznit's hide. Bye bye, Scottie! Karl has moved over half an inch to take on the coordination of smear campaigns, black box voting, discarded voter registration forms, unwarranted voter purging and other dirty and illegal tricks for this November. Hey, it's a tough job but some creep's gotta do it. We're watching you, Rove. -hl

Karl Rove, the president's most influential adviser and a dominant force in the Bush administration since its beginning, surrendered key policy responsibilities today while press secretary Scott McClellan announced his resignation.

Both moves were part of the makeover promised earlier this week by a White House seeking to reverse sagging public opinion ratings.

Rove will remain deputy chief of staff to President Bush, but he will drop his portfolio as policy coordinator -- a job he assumed a year ago -- and once again concentrate his focus on broader strategy and politics as the 2006 mid-term elections approach, the White House announced.

The Bush administration's standing in the polls has plummeted to new lows in recent weeks as the war in Iraq has dragged on with little visible progress toward the formation of a new government in Baghdad. The Republican Party's standing has suffered as well, according to polling, at the worst possible time. With elections just seven months away, Republicans are being buffeted by ethics scandals and general dissatisfaction with the incumbent party's capacity to govern. Much of the pressure for a shakeup has come from congressional Republicans.

The moves followed a declaration Monday by Joshua B. Bolten, the new chief of staff, that any administration official considering leaving should do so sooner rather than later. Further change is expected shortly with most attention focused on replacing Treasury Secretary John W. Snow.

Bolten will replace Rove with Joel Kaplan, a trusted aide from the Office of Management and Budget, which Bolten headed until a few days ago. Bush yesterday announced Rob Portman's nomination as OMB chief. Joseph W Hagin, the other deputy chief of staff, also turns over his policy management duties to Kaplan but remains deputy for operations.

"Karl will continue to serve as the deputy chief of staff and senior adviser," said deputy White House press secretary Ken Lisaius. "What's going to happen is Joel will come in to manage the daily policy process and that will leave Karl more time to focus on truly strategic planning at a critical time for the presidency."

McClellan is the most visible face of the White House after the president himself since he presides over the increasingly contentious daily briefings that have become common fare not only on C-SPAN but on the late night humor shows.

Since the perjury indictment of vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the briefings have featured many more angry questions from some reporters who feel they were misled by McClellan on White House involvement in a series of leaks on pre-war evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

McClellan's resignation was not unexpected. Bush stood next to McClellan, a long time Texas associate, as the resignation was announced on the White House South Lawn just before the president left for a trip to Alabama. "I thought he handled his assignment with class, integrity," the president said. "It's going to be hard to replace Scott, but nevertheless he made the decision and I accepted it. One of these days, he and I are going to be rocking in chairs in Texas and talking about the good old days."

McClellan told Bush: "I have given it my all, sir, and I have given you my all, sir, and I will continue to do so as we transition to a new press secretary."

No replacement has been named yet for McClellan.

Earlier today, Bush returned to the vexing situation in Iraq, saying he was concerned about a dangerous "vacuum" there. He prodded once again Iraq's political leadership to put a "government in place" soon.

"We fully recognize that the Iraqis must step up and form a unity government, so that those who went to the polls to vote recognize that a government will be in place to respond to their needs. . . . "We also recognize that vacuums in the political process create opportunity for malfeasance and harm," he said.

Bush commented after meeting with four governors who recently returned from a trip to Iraq. The governors included Jeb Bush, Republican of Florida and the president's brother; Tom Vilsack, Democrat of Iowa; Mitch Daniels, Republican of Indiana and former director of the White House budget office; and Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia.

Four months of haggling among Iraqi politicians have now passed since the country went to the polls to choose elected representatives, who were, in turn, supposed to choose a government.

The 275-member assembly had been scheduled to meet Monday but agreed to a delay so that Shiites could resolve the continuing dispute over who will be prime minister.