Changes at the top


For those of you who know little about President Bush, allow me the opportunity to explain one thing: The more people clamor for change, the less likely he is to do it. In fact, if White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card hadn't gone in to the president and offered his own resignation–more than once–he would still probably be at the White House. So, for those generals who want to see Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld go, here's a piece of advice: Be quiet.

And quiet is the word for new White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten. Quiet–yet tough. Which is why, at his first staff meeting, he told folks inside the White House: If you want to leave, do it now. He made it very clear that this White House needs an internal shake-up. That does not mean wholesale firings, nor does it mean wholesale resignations. What it does mean is moving around the chess pieces–taking people already there (even those at very high levels) and giving them some different responsibilities. It can make a difference. After all, these jobs are all burnout positions, so change can be refreshing–and can work to the president's advantage.

Sure, there are the obvious guessing games: When will Treasury Secretary John Snow leave? (The answer: Whenever the president feels he has a great replacement, and maybe not until after the election.) And when will Rumsfeld say sayonara? (The answer: When both he and the president believe that Iraq is looking good, which could mean never.) Bush is a very loyal man–and gets loyalty in return. That's why this White House has been so difficult for reporters to crack; the staff actually likes the president.

In the Clinton years, you might recall, the White House staff played out its intramural squabbles on the front page. Not so with these folks. The squabbling is frowned upon by the president, and they know it. To stay in this White House means to be loyal to the president. And anyone who doesn't know that needs to find the door.