Dan Bartlett, one of President Bush's most trusted advisers and his longest-serving aide, said Friday he is resigning to begin a career outside of government.
In an interview, Bartlett, who turned 36 on Friday, said he had been pondering his departure for months and decided now is the best time to get a less demanding job so he can concentrate on helping raise three children all under the age of 4.
As counselor to the president, he is the most important White House insider to leave Bush’s side since the resignation last November of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Bartlett’s pending departure will follow that of some other aides such as deputy national security adviser J.D. Crouch and the National Security Council expert on Iraq and Afghanistan, Meghan O’Sullivan, who chose to leave rather than ride out the rest of the president’s term, which ends in January 2009.
‘Hell of a ride’
“It’s been a hell of a ride,” said Bartlett, who was at Bush’s side on Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaida attacks transformed Bush’s presidency before his very eyes.
Bartlett said he was leaving for no other reason than to get a job in the private sector and concentrate more on his family.
His wife, Allyson, had given him a nudge back when their third child was born four months ago by suggesting the baby be named “exit strategy.”
“I figured after 13 years and a lot of experience under our belt, this was a time to turn a new chapter in my life,” Bartlett said.
White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten said he would conduct a search for a replacement to Bartlett, who has had unrivaled access to the Oval Office.
“Whenever we lost a great player someone else steps up and performs exceptionally well,” Bolten said. He predicted the successor to Bartlett would have a “similar but not identical role.”
Bolten said he has been impressed by the caliber of people Bush has been able to attract to government service in his waning years in office, such as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and hoped to get similar talent for Bartlett’s job.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.