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Don’t Shake Up the White House On My Account

Dick Polman of the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain has a column on Andy Card’s resignation that I assume has run in a number of papers. The column’s theme is that the replacement of Card by Josh Bolten isn’t much of a change and won’t satisfy those who have been calling on President Bush to clean house. Polman contrasts Ronald Reagan’s 1987 staff shakeup with Card’s replacement:

Reagan’s shake-up is prominent in the history books; the more minimal Bush response won’t resonate nearly as much. After John Hinderaker, a lawyer and conservative blogger, heard the news, he headed his online remarks with one word: “Yawn.” And he wrote: “I doubt that the change will make any difference, except maybe cosmetically.”

I’m flattered to be accorded this prominence, but I do want to distinguish my reaction from that of Fred Barnes and others who are quoted later. Unlike Barnes and some other pundits (both friendly and unfriendly to the administration), I don’t think there is any particular need for a staff shakeup. I think that while Barnes’ call for resignations by such stalwarts as Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney is well-intended, as a practical matter, such a course would be disastrous. Major changes in Executive Branch staffing at this point would only reinforce the claims made by the administration’s critics.

President Bush thinks we are on the right course in Iraq and elsewhere; so do I. That being the case, the last thing he should do is fire effective leaders like Rumsfeld in what would surely be a futile effort to satisfy his critics or create an illusion of “change.”

One more point: Polman and many others assume that Bush dismissed Card and replaced him with Bolten. That may well be true, but I’m not aware of any evidence to that effect. One persistent report is that Card resigned in order to join Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign. Again, I have no idea whether that’s true or not; my point is that it’s unwarranted to assume that every time a significant Executive Branch official resigns, he’s been fired.

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