April 19, 2006

PACIFIER POLITICS:

Bush Names New Budget Chief: More Changes Coming But Rumsfeld Will Stay In Job, President Says (Jim VandeHei, 4/19/06, Washington Post)

In a short Rose Garden news conference, Bush announced that Portman, the U.S. trade representative and a close ally of House GOP leaders, will be promoted to the White House inner circle as head of the Office of Management and Budget. White House advisers said Bush picked Portman in part to send a clear signal that he is serious about working more cooperatively with disgruntled GOP lawmakers.

"We finally have one of our own in the Bush inner circle," said Kyle Downey, spokesman for Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). [...]

White House officials, who guard internal discussions over staff changes like state secrets, said the next round of resignations and appointments could come as early as next week. Among those said to be contemplating leaving, Republican officials believe, are Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, White House spokesman Scott McClellan and several mid-level officials.

Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman during Bush's first term, said the president is responding to pressure from Republican lawmakers and strategists by reaching out to Portman and other officials with close congressional ties. "The whole series of staff changes is by and large a Washington game, but you have to play that game if you are going to win," Fleischer said.

In a change described by congressional aides as seemingly small but symbolically significant, Portman himself called Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) on Monday to tell him about his new job, and other officials contacted a few congressional GOP leadership aides to give them a heads-up later that night.

Ron Bonjean, Hastert's spokesman, said the selection of Portman shows that Bush is "taking Congress seriously." Portman is an unusual breed: He is well liked both by Bush and by congressional Republicans, and operatives regard him as effective at media relations.

Portman, 50, was widely considered a future candidate for majority leader or speaker before he left the House a year ago to run the trade office. A fiscal conservative with a pragmatic streak, Portman has been close to the Bush family since his days as George H.W. Bush's point man in New Hampshire in the 1980 presidential campaign. As a congressman, he was one of the few GOP lawmakers President Bush would reliably turn to for advice on politics and policy.

He also possesses what has become a prerequisite for job seekers in Washington's current season of scandal: a clean ethics record. John Bridgeland, a former adviser to Portman and later to Bush, said that Portman's politics are similar to Bolten's but that his congressional experience will give him additional clout with Congress.

"There is certainly no substitution for someone who has been a member . . . and has the intimate, day-to-day relationships with members," Bridgeland said.

MORE:
Ex-Congressman Is Tapped for Budget Post (JIM RUTENBERG and EDMUND L. ANDREWS, 4/19/06, NY Times)

Also on Tuesday, speculation increased that the White House was focusing on changing its press secretary, Scott McClellan. Officials have spoken with Tony Snow, a commentator for Fox News and a former speechwriter for the president's father, to see if he would be interested in the job, said two people with knowledge of the discussion who were granted anonymity so they could speak freely about a matter the White House did not want to be publicly known.

One of them said Mr. Snow had been contacted very recently about the job, and both said they did not believe Mr. Snow was the only person the White House was considering.

Republicans have been speculating about potential successors, including Rob Nichols, the former Treasury spokesman, and Victoria Clarke, the former Pentagon spokeswoman. Mr. McClellan has refused to comment about his plans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 19, 2006 9:34 AM
Comments

Scott McClellan, to my mind, has been one of the least impressive members of the administration. Tony Snow is an intriguing name but I wonder about his stamina. Wasn't he recently treated for colon cancer?

Posted by: Rick T. at April 19, 2006 10:37 AM

Rick, Scott did a fine job of defanging the WH press corps who were under the delusion that they had the power.

Posted by: erp at April 19, 2006 12:08 PM

erp:

Unfortunately, I only see him on snippets from the regular news shows so that doesn't come through. I have read some of the exchanges and I can see your point.

Posted by: Rick T. at April 19, 2006 12:17 PM

Frankly, it would be a demotion for Tony Snow at this stage in his media life. I'd look in the blogosphere for a Scott McClellan replacement.

Posted by: Brad S at April 19, 2006 12:26 PM

Brad:

The White House is never a demotion. Harriet Miers would have been moving laterally at best.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2006 12:29 PM

Does the hard right want someone who will SMASH the press corps, or someone who is clever enough to let them destroy themselves?

Remember, the smashing part can only happen once.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 19, 2006 12:51 PM

jim:

They're ideologues--they want Massada.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2006 12:54 PM

OJ,

It's a demotion when you have your own media talk show, and are receiving remuneration for it that no White House salary can ever compete with.

Tony Snow can now control his own message. He wouldn't be able to do that with a White House gig.

Posted by: Brad S at April 19, 2006 2:04 PM

Brad:

Talking to wingnuts isn't more power than helping govern America.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2006 2:10 PM

The White House press secretary "helps govern America" ??

To help govern, don't you need a voice in policy decisions, or at least to be involved in implementing policy ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 20, 2006 5:53 AM

Yes.

Posted by: oj at April 20, 2006 8:50 AM
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