Budget Director Joshua B. Bolten Will Step in For Card on April 14
By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 28, 2006; 8:48 AM
White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. announced his resignation this morning after nearly 5-1/2 years as President Bush's top aide. Bush said Card will be replaced by Joshua B. Bolten, the director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Bush made the announcement in the Oval Office at 8:30 a.m. Card will serve until April 14 to provide a transition period, but the move could presage broader staff changes as Bolten takes over an operation hobbled by political problems heading into a crucial midterm election season.
Card has held the top staff job at the White House longer than any person since Sherman Adams under President Dwight D. Eisenhower and had earned enormous respect within the building and around Washington for his calm professionalism and stamina. But his stewardship of the Bush team had come under question in recent months after a series of mishaps, including the failed Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers, the bungled federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the slow public disclosure of Vice President Cheney's shooting accident and the unexpected Republican revolt over a plan to turn management at a half dozen ports to an Arab-owned company.
A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid upstaging the president's announcement, said Card approached Bush earlier this month about the possibility of stepping down and then two had several discussions about the idea. Card then went with Bush to Camp David last weekend, where they settled on a decision and timing.
"He's been here 5-1/2 years. The average tenure of chief of staff is two years," said the official. "Change can be good and necessary and that's what they had discussed." The official said the decision was Card's, not Bush's. "Andy initiated it with the president," the official said.
Bolten is among the most respected officials within the administration and a trusted confidant of the president's. His selection as chief of staff suggests the likelihood of a smooth transition, but officials anticipate that he might want to make further changes to a team that has largely been intact since the beginning of the Bush presidency in January 2001.
Bolten served as deputy White House chief of staff in Bush's first term and then was moved over to head the budget office at a time when spending on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Medicare benefits and the recovery from Hurricane Katrina pushed up deficits. In an attempt to deal with the new spending demands, Bolten oversaw two consecutive budgets that actually cut overall non-security discretionary domestic spending. But many Republicans in Congress have complained that the administration has not done enough to tighten the federal belt.
Bush had brushed off talk of staff changes at a news conference last week but explicitly did not rule them out. "I am happy with the people I surrounded myself with," he said at the time. When asked if he might bring aboard a veteran Washington operative to repair relations with Congress, he said, "I'm not going to announce it right now."
Card, 59, has been the focal point of much discussion in Washington about how physically and politically exhausted the White House staff must be in the sixth year of a presidency buffeted by recession, terrorism and war. Card has told interviewers that he gets up every morning at 4:20 a.m., arrives at the White House an hour or so after that and works until 8 or 9 at night.
A former secretary of transportation for President George H.W. Bush, Card has been a fiercely loyal part of the larger Bush political clan for many years. Unlike other chiefs of staff who have been seen as autocratic, Card managed the competing egos and political crosscurrents of the White House with quiet efficiency, respect and seemingly no independent agenda. He was known for wandering the West Wing to check in on aides and leaving notes of thanks to those who had done a good job.
Largely invisible to the public, he is best known beyond the beltway probably for his cameo role on Sept. 11, 2001, informing Bush that a second hijacked plane had struck the World Trade Center in New York. Bush at the time was reading a children's book to students in a Florida classroom. As the cameras recorded the moment, Card calmly approached Bush and whispered in his ear. "A second plane hit the second tower," Card told Bush, according to later accounts. "America is under attack."
Card began his political career in his home New England, where he was elected to the Massachusetts legislature in 1974 as a moderate Republican who supported abortion rights and gay rights. He ran for governor in 1982 but lost the Republican nomination.
His work with the Bush family began in earnest in 1980 when he ran the Massachusetts campaign for George H.W. Bush's failed attempt to win the presidential nomination. After becoming Ronald Reagan's vice president, Bush brought him into the White House, where he worked in the intergovernmental affairs office. He later joined Bush's presidential campaign and then served as deputy chief of staff before taking over the transportation department.
In picking Bolten to replace Card, the current President Bush stayed close to home. Resisting Republican advice to pick a seasoned Washington veteran the way Reagan brought in former Senate majority leader Howard H. Baker Jr. when his own presidency was listing in his second term, Bush characteristically picked someone he knows well and trusts implicitly.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company