The front page of today’s Washington Post has an interesting headline – “White House Shifts Into Survival Mode“:
In a White House known for both defiance and optimism, yesterday’s senior staff changes represent a frank acknowledgment of the trouble in which President Bush now finds himself. They are also a signal of how starkly Bush’s second-term ambitions have shifted after a year of persistent problems at home and abroad.
Longtime Bush confidant Karl Rove — who had hoped to use his position of deputy chief of staff to usher in an expansive conservative agenda — was relieved of his policy portfolio to concentrate on long-term strategy and planning for a November midterm election that looks increasingly bleak for Republicans.
Rove probably will remain one of the most influential voices in the White House, but his shift in responsibilities suggests that new White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten intends to operate a different White House than his predecessor, Andrew H. Card Jr., who resigned after more than five years at the helm.
Bolten’s White House, say former administration officials and Republican strategists, is likely to have clearer lines of authority and less free-lancing by powerful officials. They also expect Bolten to play a more active and influential role in shaping domestic policy than did Card.
What is interesting is how a lot of the media is dodging around the real question of why Rove was switched. Perhaps the question still lies in the Valerie Plame case. Interesting is the fact that at the same time of this announcement yesterday this was also going on:
Just as the news broke Wednesday about Scott McClellan resigning as White House press secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove shedding some of his policy duties, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald met with the grand jury hearing evidence in the CIA leak case and introduced additional evidence against Rove, attorneys and other US officials close to the investigation said.
The grand jury session in federal court in Washington, DC, sources close to the case said, was the first time this year that Fitzgerald told the jurors that he would soon present them with a list of criminal charges he intends to file against Rove in hopes of having the grand jury return a multi-count indictment against Rove.
In an interview Wednesday, Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, confirmed that Rove remains a “subject” of Fitzgerald’s two-year-old probe.
So is it “survival” mode they are switching to or could it be indictment mode? This is the $100,000 question right now. Even ABC is now reporting on this:
The Rove move was a surprise, and a way for the new White House chief of staff to make a very public statement that big changes were ahead. In his years crafting the political career of President Bush, Rove and his power has never been checked — until now.
Insiders say the move is not just window dressing. They say that Rove’s role in the CIA leak investigation may have also triggered the move, and that Rove has not proven as adept at the nuts and bolts of policy as he is at political strategy, citing the failure of Social Security reform and the lack of a compelling domestic policy agenda.
Remember, we know of two past officials in this White House that have resigned only to find themselves indicted days later. Of course Rove will not resign and Bush would not fire him – that would be a signal of weakness. Now we are looking at something very interesting that could be happening soon.