Friday, the president toured the Ronald Reagan library in California. There were storm clouds in Washington as everyone awaits word from special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. Privately, Republicans acknowledge they are contemplating the unimaginable: A Bush presidency without Karl Rove.
Lanny Davis, former White House counsel says, “I cannot overstate the palpable fear and anxiety that must be going on today by people working in the White House.”
Even the president seemed to acknowledge the investigation is a distraction. President Bush simply referred to it as “some background noise.”
Already, senior White House officials are exploring staff changes to address broader structural problems, like the sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina, and the bungled nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.
“This is really a point in time where the chief of staff, someone in the White House is going to have to exert some tremendous discipline because thing can fall apart real fast,” says Leon Panetta who worked as Clinton’s chief of staff.
But some Republicans worry that fatigue may also be one reason the White House has stumbled recently.
“I‘m mindful that working in the White House is really — is exhausting work,” admits Bush.
Andy Card has served longer than any chief of staff in half a century, five years of a punishing 24-7 schedule. He gets up at precisely 4:20 every morning, eats breakfast with his wife and arrives at his desk by 5:30 a.m. That’s just the start of his 15.5 hour day.
Others, including Rove, Libby, White House Counselor Dan Barlett, Counsel Harriet Miers, and Press Secretary Scott McClellan have worked full-time since the beginning of the Bush White House.
Given there may be potential burnout and certainly that this investigation weighs heavily on the White House, no one is talking about publicly any White House shakeup. But there has been a discussion outside of the White House from other Republican strategists about people that could head to the White House for full-time jobs, if needed. Such names included former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie, who has been working on the nominations of not only Roberts but also Miers.
He would have a top job, some say, inside the White House. Also, the president‘s counselor, Dan Bartlett, could be promoted and his portfolio expanded. There‘s also talks that the current Republican National Committee Chair, Ken Mehlman, could also return to the White House in some form of a political role. He, of course, is very close to Karl Rove.
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