Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Bolton Shakeup--It Seems to Be for Real

Most of the reading I have done about Josh Bolton's appointment as White House Chief of Staff seems to suggest that this is little more than a rearrangement of the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. But per this report, it seems that Bolton is not afraid of meaningful change.

The economy is in excellent shape. With unemployment at 4.8%, but a population that still doesn't believe that the economy is in good shape, (and most economists believe that the minimum possible unemployment level is probably around 3.5%), and the Fed raising interest rates because of concern that the economy might be getting too hot, it seems that were are dealing with a significant inability to communicate successes. And failure to communicate it to a public that is far more fascinated with whomever wins on Survivor, American Idol or whatever easily manufactured game show Hollywood has devised, means that the success didn't happen. So the suggestion that the Treasury Secretary be replaced is not extraordinarily surprising. Note that I said the suggestion, not the actual replacement. I still think replacement is unlikely, although by no means impossible, as Bush's loyalty to his economic team is not as strong as it is to his foreign policy team.

And remarks from Scott McClellan to the effect that Bush loves Treasury Secretary John Snow don't hold much water. And to a degree, I think that McClellan has some vicarious fear when staff shakeups are mentioned, because unlike the nimble Ari Fleischer, he seems unable to do more than simply react to the media, and seems unable to stay above the press room fray. Granted, it was most satisfying to watch McClellan get the best of media brat, David Gregory who threw a tantrum after he was accused of playing to the cameras. But a single moment of satisfaction is no substitute for keeping the President's agenda on front pages, as opposed to responding to the latest media-contrived conspiracy theory.

But most interesting are these disagreeing remarks from McClellan and Bolton being simultaneously broadcast. Very few things leak from this White House, as leaking is regarded as political treason by this White House, and it is even less likely that leaks would disagree, as they value staying on message. So when two conflicting messages come from this White House--one through somewhat unofficial channels-- it lends to the impression that there is more than just a little displeasure among the existing White House staff over Bolton's effort to effect what apparently is perceived within the White House as a revolution. And I think that this is potentially a very positive thing in the long run for the Administration.

Because if the existing staff is expressing some level of discomfort with the ideas of the new Chief of Staff, it indicates that this is probably the shakeup that the Administration has been needing. They won't get grouchy about it if they feel safe in their positions.

And while I have no idea how this will play out, as we are only getting leaks and the story is just a few days old, it seems at the very least that Bolton is about to inject some new energy into an Administration that desperately needs it.

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