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April 18, 2006
Clearing The Decks?

It appears that incoming White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten has a strong mandate from George Bush to make sweeping changes to staff and Cabinet, according to reports by the New York Times and Washington Post this morning. At least for now, it looks as though no one's job is secure among Bush advisors, as the polls continue to show a slide in confidence in the approach to the midterm elections:

The new White House chief of staff put the West Wing and official Washington on notice on Monday about potentially substantial changes in the way the White House is staffed and operates.

Meeting first thing Monday with senior White House aides, the new chief, Joshua B. Bolten, said it was time to "refresh and re-energize" President Bush's team, the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, said. Mr. Bolten also said anybody who was considering leaving within the year should step forward now, according to Mr. McClellan's account of the meeting. ...

Senior White House officials had spent months playing down the need for any substantial overhaul of administration personnel. Mr. Bolten's message seemed to suggest that Mr. Bush had now come around to the idea that his presidency needed some fresh faces, if not a fresh start. But it is not yet clear how wide and deep any changes will be, and whether they will portend new policy approaches or be limited to bringing in new voices to sell existing policies.

My first guess at the effect of the changes will be to keep the major goals of the administration intact but to offer new policies in achieving them. First and foremost among the efforts should be to reconnect Bush to the GOP base, whose confidence in his leadership has eroded due to the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, the appointment of Julie Myers to head ICE, the poor handling of the Dubai ports deal that led to unaccountable hysteria, and the continued bloating of the federal budget. The most serious erosion in Bush's approval has come from his own base, and fixing that alienation has to be at the top of Bolten's goals.

The largest worry for the administration has to be the collapse of support in the fight against terrorism. The normally reliable Rasmussen polls show that only 55% of Republicans believe that the Iraq War will be seen as a success in the long run. A plurality of people believe that the US and its allies are winning the war on terror despite the four and a half years that the Bush administration has kept the homeland safe from attack. These numbers indicate a dangerous disaffection with the forward strategy against terrorists, and if allowed to continue could result in the election of an isolationist President and Congress that would return the US to a law-enforcement posture in the fight against terrorists -- where we only pursue them after they have attacked us.

The continuation of the status quo is unacceptable, and that means personnel changes and fresh thinking. No one person is indispensable in the fight against terrorists, and we need to ensure that the new faces in the administration help to rebuild support for the war. Hopefully, this new staff will do better at communicating the victories and successes we have achieved in our fight and the consequences of abandoning it. Even better, having more outside-the-box thinking can help realign policies and efforts to more directly support the overall goals of the administration and the legislative majority.

The Bush White House needed to acknowledge the public crisis in confidence in the administration. I see the Bolten mandate as a positive step towards reversing that.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 18, 2006 6:44 AM

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