One of the most powerful Republicans in the Senate is calling the decision to replace Andy Card, White House chief of staff yesterday, to Josh Bolten, the new chief of staff, more of a light shuffle than a serious shakeup.
Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi says more of President Bush's inner circle needs to be replaced with people of experience and gravitas. Lott joined Chris Matthews on ‘Hardball’ to talk about his proposed changes.
To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, ‘HARDBALL’: Gravitas, what are you looking for?
SEN. TRENT LOTT ®, MISSISSIPPI: I think they need people that do have experience and maybe even former members of congress. People that can deal with congress on an eye-to-eye basis. Just some new blood. I never said that they should replace people. I just said that they should bring in some new experienced hands in a variety of places. I suggested Slade Gorton would be an excellent counselor, policy adviser.
MATTHEWS: He's one of your singers, isn't he?
LOTT: No, Slade can't even carry a tune. Former senator from Washington Sate, a former attorney general out there. Very smart. Dan Coats, former senator, great guy. Karen Hughes, I miss Karen, I think she was a powerful, positive influence in the White House and on the president. But again, I thought Andy Card was very loyal, dedicated, worked hard over five years, he deserves a rest. That's a tough job, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Did he anything to do with messing around with the Senate leadership a few years back?
LOTT: I don't know.
MATTHEWS: Karl had something to do with it.
LOTT: I don't know if I could ever pin the tail on that donkey or elephant if you will, but I think Josh Bolten is a good man. What is a chief of staff supposed to be at the White House, and if you look at what you really expect from a chief of staff, the fact that he's been there, he understands how it operates, he'll be good, but I think they need some more people. It happens in every White House, Chris, you've watched White Houses.
MATTHEWS: Let me tell you what I know, Senator.
LOTT: They sort of step down a notch or two as the years goes by. When somebody leaves, they just promote somebody in the office up and the next thing, you look around and you don't have the people of real strong character. I just want to make sure the president is hearing advice from a variety of voices and I'm not sure he is all the time.
MATTHEWS: When I work for the Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill, for all those years, he had one question he asked me every morning, anything I ought to know? Every morning. And we were supposed to be there before him, we were supposed to have read all the papers, know what happened in the cloak room that day, who is out to get him. And if we didn't know, he would rip at us.
Why doesn't the president have somebody like that, who told him this Dubai deal is going to be a real problem, this Harriet Miers thing isn't selling, this Katrina thing is hurting you, you got to get down there. How come he doesn't have people around him like that, President Bush?
LOTT: I don't know and I don't think he has anybody like that right now. You know, Andy's job was not to do that. I think he just had a different job description. Maybe he could have or should have, I don't know. But I think the only voice he hears frankly quite often is Karl Rove and I don't think that's enough.
MATTHEWS: You would recommend a former senator or congressman?
LOTT: Former governor, you know, we've got some great governors around here. John Engler from Michigan, great guy, smart guy. He might not want to leave. But it could be somebody like Ed Gillespie, very thoughtful, very articulate, very experienced, good political instinct, highly respected. Ken Mehlman, Bill Paxton. Lots of people. Women, I've suggested some very capable, good policy women of maturity and experience, that would be glad to come in, help the president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: What's the president say when you make this recommendation?
LOTT: Well, you're not supposed to say what you say to the president, but you know, I suggested something to him one time that this would be helpful to him perhaps, I just want to make sure he wasn't home alone. To his credit, he said who would you suggest, and I think he—I think he is a little surprised I had actually thought about that and I threw out four names real quick, bam, bam, bam, then total silence.
MATTHEWS: Did he write them down?
LOTT: I don't know.
MATTHEWS: How about Don Evans?
LOTT: I think he misses Don. Don is not just so much his counsel, as just the closeness and the friendship, the bond that they have. I think he misses that. Used to when I would really get nervous, I'd call one of two people, Don Evans, Karen Hughes. They had the thumb on the pulse, they knew the man.
After all, I'm not insinuating this president doesn't have a good antenna and good judgment, but we are all human beings, we need good people around us.
MATTHEWS: That's great. I remember Mac McCarty was like that with Clinton. The kind of guy you could call who was a grown-up.
LOTT: Clinton had a lot of them. I had a great relationship with Leon Panetta.
MATTHEWS: Is the president in a bubble right now?
LOTT: Every president, I think, winds up in a bubble at least for a while. Some of them have realized it and they break out of it, but it's a natural. I mean, look, there are bubble in Senate offices and leaders' offices. You get euphoric, you get sort of above it all. Leaders don't always like to hear things.
MATTHEWS: You're outside your bubble now.
LOTT: I'm free.
MATTHEWS: You're free at last.
LOTT: Singing like a canary.
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