March 28, 2006 — -- Washington's political pundits got the big White House shake-up they'd been calling for, but on the president's terms, not theirs.
White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, who broke records by staying more than five years in the West Wing pressure cooker, will depart in three weeks. But the president has not recruited a Washington heavyweight or former political star to come get the beleaguered agenda back on track. Instead, he has reached into his own core of loyal advisers and promoted his quiet, wonkish budget director.
Joshua B. Bolten has been in the Bush staff orbit even longer than Card. He is now director of the enormously powerful (but not very sexy) Office of Management and Budget. Bolten was Card's domestic policy deputy during much of the first term. However, he does not bring to the chief of staff's sunny corner office the gravitas or political track record that some Republicans still say the White House needs.
Bolten may become Washington's hottest new personality. Behind the glasses and businesslike demeanor is a guy devoted to his Harley motorcycle who's fanatic about bowling. His office coffee-table book is a children's best-seller, "Walter the Farting Dog." The vanity photos on the wall are all of Bush's hands, not his face.
Why not bring in a superstar? Why stay the course? Bush seems to relish sticking it to the inside-the-beltway mentality in Washington. But more than that, he's following a pattern used by all recent two-term presidents.