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Tilting at Windmills

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April 19, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

FRESH OLD FACES....Yawn. The White House "shakeup" continues. Karl Rove is stepping down, except that he's not. He's still deputy chief of staff, still chief policy aide, and still senior advisor, but he's giving up his role as "policy coordinator" whatever that means. I'm sure the mood in the West Wing will change dramatically because of this.

In other news, Press Secretary Scott McClellan, his credibility having been reduced to tatters long ago, is also stepping down. However, with speculation about Treasury Secretary John Snow's departure heating up, President Bush has apparently made the decision to conserve the number of people named Snow in his administration by offering Scotty's job to Fox News commentator Tony Snow. I don't know why Snow would accept a demotion like that, but that's the scuttlebutt.

Yawn.

Kevin Drum 11:51 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (70)

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Comments

In tribute to his dismal service to the American people, here is a sampling of the Scott McClellan Hall of Shame:
"Scott McClellan's Greatest Hits."

Posted by: AvengingAngel on April 19, 2006 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

It's all very intriguing. Moving Kaplan into policy just in time for Karl's perp walk?

Posted by: shortstop on April 19, 2006 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

White House shakeup?
Lol...

It is a snow job alright....

Posted by: koreyel on April 19, 2006 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Next serious change: the White House electrician and upstairs maid are replaced by illegal aliens!

Posted by: Red on April 19, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

You don't think it's a big deal?? What will happen to the US if our policies start being uncoordinated? Oh... right.

Posted by: LeisureGuy on April 19, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

In other news, Liberal blogger Kevin Drum whines and complains and pouts.

Posted by: Frequency Kenneth on April 19, 2006 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

Blech. Tony Snow? Another haughty, arrogant white guy as a White House mouthpiece? What a shocker.

Why doesn't the Bush Administration just hire everyone at FoxNews and take responsibility for the fact that it is God's Own Channel?

Posted by: zoe kentucky on April 19, 2006 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

The policy coordinator title was always a bit on an ego trip on Rove's part. Like about 95% of all the electioneering hands in the country, Rove has cherished the idea that he can also be a big wheel in developing policy. Since really developing policy inevitably means compromising electoral strategies Rove, again like 95% of the electioneering hands in the country, has been wrong.

Will he still be what he was in Bush's first term, a big wet blanket covering any policy initiative that was not part of Bush's 1999 campaign platform or might involve some political risk. I have no doubt that he'll try to be; whether he will succeed will be up to Bolten, who within the White House will be making the argument that if all this personnel shuffling really doesn't change anything Bush will look weak and ineffectual even to his most devoted supporters.

As for McClellan, Bush won't find anyone who can do what he did the way he did it. Really, monumentally bad press spokesmen who are admired by their bosses and despised by everyone else are truly exceptional commodities; once again it will be up to Bolten to find someone who can brief without denying the obvious and trying to spin the unspinnable while still retaining the trust of this President. Good luck to him.

Posted by: Zathras on April 19, 2006 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Hopefully Tony Snow from Fox News will replace McClelland. Snow has done a good job protecting President Bush from the liberal media's constant attack on him by offering a more balanced perspective.

Posted by: al on April 19, 2006 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Before craigie beats me to it:

Frequency nails it.

Posted by: lib on April 19, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

They're convinced they're being less obvious this way, zoe. Kind of like when a little kid puts his hands over his eyes and believes that because he can't see you, you can't see him.

Posted by: shortstop on April 19, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Frequency nailed it!

Posted by: shortstop on April 19, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Why bother with a replacement? When was the last time the WH spokesman said anything informative or true?

A Magic 8 Ball gives better answers than the Fleischer/McClellan bots; put the presidential seal on it and bingo -- one less health plan to fund from the Oval Office budget.

Posted by: Uli Kunkel on April 19, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

They are hiring Rush Limbaugh's guest host as Press Secretary? Really?

Posted by: Jim 7 on April 19, 2006 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

I like the idea of a White House press 8-ball. Except it won't be able to give answers like "My sources say no" and "Signs point to yes"; those answers are far to direct for this White House. Instead, it would have to be redesigned to give only "Reply hazy, try again", "Concentrate and ask again" and "Ask again later". A new answer will have to added, not found in any existing 8-ball: "I cannot comment on an ongoing criminal investigation."

Posted by: CKT on April 19, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

"I cannot comment on an ongoing criminal investigation."

Also "I already answered that question."

Posted by: Uli Kunkel on April 19, 2006 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

The CEO President should just outsource the whole press communication to Fox News. That would just make the whole relationship official.

Posted by: craigie on April 19, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Tony Snow's salary would take quite a hit if he accepted the WH job, no?

Posted by: Hoyt Pollard on April 19, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Also "I already answered that question."

I think this answer should forever be known as The McClellan, in honor of our humble outgoing public servant.

Really, they're so into privatization, why not just outsource the whole Press Secretary's office to Fox News?

Posted by: Royko on April 19, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Can't see that any of this matters now, a little late.

Posted by: Matt on April 19, 2006 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Snowball?

Why buy the whore when you can get the milky loads for free?

Posted by: Roger Ailes on April 19, 2006 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Frequency nails his own thumb again!

Posted by: shortstop on April 19, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

The administration has so isolated itself from the people, whom they seem to consider adversaries, that they always wake up to public opinion six months too late.

Posted by: Myron on April 19, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

If Tony Snow is the true believer that he seems to be, he would jump at the opportunity to give up his millions and become the child-emperors mouth piece.

Even now, I bet Tony's flesh is all tingly as he envisions Cheney's all-American manhood being thrus....never mind.

Posted by: Keith G on April 19, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

In other news, liberal-blog commenter Frequency Kenneth whines and complains and pouts about Kevin Drum's alleged whining and complaining and pouting.

Posted by: Doug on April 19, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

The administration has so isolated itself from the people, whom they seem to consider adversaries...

*cough* Nixon! *cough*

Sorry, y'all, but I can't help it! The similarities are never-endin'!

Posted by: shortstop on April 19, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

To save taxpayer dollars, why not just drop the pretense, shut down the WH Press Office and outsource the work to Fox News?

Posted by: tom on April 19, 2006 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

I've always felt sorry for Scott McClellan. He actually seems like a nice guy...and forced to tell blatant lies every day of his life. It will take years of therapy to bring him back from where he's been.

Tony Snoow, on the other hand, should make an easy transition into that daily routine.

Posted by: Lamonte on April 19, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Now why would anyone want to leave Fox News? You'd go from an audience of trained seals, barking and clapping on command, to a smart, pissed bunch of journalist who Have Had Enough....never mind the pay cut...
Snow is going to find out that being a neocon isn't fun anymore when the targets start firing back

Posted by: Stewart Dean on April 19, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

I've always felt sorry for Scott McClellan. He actually seems like a nice guy...and forced to tell blatant lies every day of his life.

I don't get where the "forcing" came in. He comes from a family of hardcore Bush supporters who have selected government jobs for which they're not qualified and in which they actively further a harmful agenda. Was there something preventing him from going out and getting a real job--other than a lack of smarts, talent and ethics, that is?

Posted by: shortstop on April 19, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Can someone please explain to me why it was acceptable for even 5 minutes that the man who pretty much defines "political hack," and is our closest modern equivalent to Mark Hanna was in charge of policy?

I mean, he didn't even graduate college. He quit, not to go work for a think tank, but to jump into the trenches of pure politics. Direct mail, for chrissake!

You don't put marketing guys in charge of the laboratories. Why the hell would you put the political guy in charge of policy?

AUGH!

Posted by: theorajones on April 19, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Scotty will come back here to TX and help his mama as she runs for the governorship of Texas. (BTW as an independent, no less)

Posted by: Keith G on April 19, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

"I've always felt sorry for Scott McClellan. He actually seems like a nice guy...forced too..."

To quote the Scot dog:

""I have given it my all sir and I have given you my all sir..."

Scott McClellan is a toady, liar, and a willing fellatio artist.

He wasn't forced to get down on his knees and blow the presidential mic.

Rather...he licked his chops and stooped to the chore.

Furthermore, he has a lifetime pension on the public's dime for his efforts.

Suggestion:
Feel no compassion for any of these crooks.
Ever.


Posted by: koreyel on April 19, 2006 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

30 comments and no one has quipped the 'rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic' line yet.

Posted by: Exiled in New Jersey on April 19, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Yawn.

Wrong! It should be: Laugh.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 19, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder how Rove's been doing with that assignment to rebuild New Orleans? Haven't heard mention of that since Bush appointed him to the task.

But, then, I see how the reconstruction is actually going and that pretty much answers the question.

Posted by: Derelict on April 19, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

30 comments and no one has quipped the 'rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic' line yet.

That's because we're not stuck in New Jersey.

Posted by: craigie on April 19, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

WH Press Secretary want ad.

Seeking individual with great rapport, credibility, and reputation with national political press. Must be willing to destroy said rapport, credibility, and reputation.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 19, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Tony Snow is a real piece of work, the little I have heard of him, he outshills Hannity.
Everytime I drive down the 405 pass Irvine it always amazes me, this is the home of Drumworld.

Posted by: Sarah Amiga on April 19, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Scott McClellan is a toady, liar, and a willing fellatio artist....

All of that, plus everything else you said, plus more.

And not to pile on poor Lamonte (whose willingness to give McClellan the benefit of the doubt I don't share but am not belittling), but I'd add this:

Scotty's nice-guy demeanor and hapless-dupe qualities are prime reasons the administration put him in that spot. He really is a loser, yeah, but that's not a virtue. For these guys, it's a deflection technique.

Posted by: shortstop on April 19, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

One clown leaves and another member of the insane clown posse enters.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on April 19, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

theorajones - I mostly agree (and Zathras, I cannot be so generous with Rove),

Karl is a policy hack. But establishing publicly beneficial policy was never the reason he was given the job, unless you also believe that maintaining a Republican majority should be the ultimate goal of any policy.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on April 19, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop and Koreyel - Have you guys ever heard of the term "tongue in cheek?" Lighten up a little. Of course McClellan was a willing participant in the daily deceipt from the Whitehouse. But as a thoroughbred neocon he couldn't help himself. (Once again - tongue in cheek)

Posted by: Lamonte on April 19, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Today's Onion Headline

White House hires former Fox News Sunday Host as White House Press Secretary...

Sources say Tim Russert extremely distraught...

OH WAIT...

That isn't the Onion...it is CNN?

Posted by: justmy2 on April 19, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Karl Rove? I've heard of him. Isn't he the Katrina Relief Czar?

Posted by: HeavyJ on April 19, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Now why would anyone want to leave Fox News? You'd go from an audience of trained seals, barking and clapping on command, to a smart, pissed bunch of journalist who Have Had Enough....never mind the pay cut...
Snow is going to find out that being a neocon isn't fun anymore when the targets start firing back

You overlook the psychic needs angle. This gig will help Snow stoke the sense of wounded victimhood which is so essential to our modern "conservatives". Later on, he can type up a couple hundred pages of put-upon-little-bitch-whining, and call it his White House memoir. Regnery's probably working out the contract even now....

Posted by: sglover on April 19, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

What's Jeff Gannon doing these days? There's a guy with press experience who also knows how to service Bush.

Posted by: Boots Day on April 19, 2006 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, hell, Lamonte--I'm sorry! I don't know you that well and you really did sound serious. Appy polly logies!

Posted by: shortstop on April 19, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

sglover, brilliant as usual: You overlook the psychic needs angle. This gig will help Snow stoke the sense of wounded victimhood which is so essential to our modern "conservatives". Later on, he can type up a couple hundred pages of put-upon-little-bitch-whining, and call it his White House memoir. Regnery's probably working out the contract even now....

Bwa!

And don't forget all the free stuff! I hear these guys get a lot of free stuff.

Posted by: shortstop on April 19, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

This is a sad day for me. Joel Kaplan, who's taking Karl Rove's job as senior "policy" coordinator (as much as the Bush regime has policy and not mere politics), is -- or perhaps I should more accurately say was -- a friend of mine. Of course, when I knew Joel in college he was a liberal Democrat, and we even campaigned for Dukakis together. I can't begin to comprehend what happened to him....

Posted by: Stefan on April 19, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

"I cannot comment on an ongoing criminal investigation."

Considering the rapidly escalating rate of indictments and scandals this will soon be the only answer it will be possible to give at a White House press conference....

Though wouldn't it be more accurately phrased "I cannot comment on an ongoing criminal Administration"?

Posted by: Stefan on April 19, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

You don't put marketing guys in charge of the laboratories. Why the hell would you put the political guy in charge of policy?

That assumes, again, that there is even any policy -- rather than mere partisan politics -- to implement at the White House. You put the political guy in charge of policy when you don't give a goddamn fuck about policy, and when you'll say or do literally anything to lie, cheat and steal your way through the next election.

Remember, for example, the letter that former WH "faith-based" chief John DiIulio wrote to Ron Suskind"

Clinton was the natural," a leader with a genuine interest in the policy process who encouraged information-rich decision-making. Clinton was the policy-wonk-in-chief. The Clinton administration drowned in policy intellectuals and teemed with knowledgeable people interested in making government work.... The Bush West Wing is very nearly at the other end of this Clinton policy-making continuum.... the administration has not done much, either in absolute terms or in comparison to previous administrations at this stage, on domestic policy.... In eight months, I heard many, many staff discussions, but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions. There were no actual policy white papers on domestic issues. There were, truth be told, only a couple of people in the West Wing who worried at all about policy substance and analysis... the lack of even basic policy knowledge, and the only casual interest in knowing more, was somewhat breathtaking -- discussions by fairly senior people who meant Medicaid but were talking Medicare.... This gave rise to what you might call Mayberry Machiavellis -- staff, senior and junior, who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption, then steering legislative initiatives or policy proposals as far right as possible.... As one senior staff member chided me at a meeting at which many junior staff were present and all ears, "John, get a faith bill, any faith bill." Like college students who fall for the colorful, opinionated, but intellectually third-rate professor, you could see these 20- and 30-something junior White House staff falling for the Mayberry Machiavellis. It was all very disheartening to this old, Madison-minded American government professor... the relative lack of substantive concern for policy and administration. I had to beg to get a provision written into the executive orders that would require us to conduct an actual information-gathering effort related to the president's interest in the policy....


Posted by: Stefan on April 19, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

The primary job requirement for any press secretary for any administration seems to be the ability to avoid answering any question that you're asked.

The only moment of pure honesty that I can remember from recent history was when Clinton's press sec freely admitted that he smoked pot during the '70s.
I actually respected him more for just saying it.

Posted by: Ringo on April 19, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

when I knew Joel in college he was a liberal Democrat, and we even campaigned for Dukakis together. I can't begin to comprehend what happened to him....

That must have been long ago. According to talking points, good ole Kaplan was involved in the phony "riot" during the 2000 election recount. Just great.

Posted by: ckelly on April 19, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Why would Tony Snow take the job? Are you kidding?

Everyone at Faux News has drunk the Kool-Aid and would jump at the chance to be nearer the Godhead of the Republicult Party.

Posted by: Cal Gal on April 19, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

That must have been long ago. According to talking points, good ole Kaplan was involved in the phony "riot" during the 2000 election recount. Just great.

Late '80s/early '90s. A very different time in American political life.

Still, I wouldn't have thought it would have been possible for someone's fundamental character to alter to such a degree. Political opinions can change, yes. But to become so thoroughly corrupt as to work in the high levels of the Bush regime, that's something else entirely.

Posted by: Stefan on April 19, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

I say, great. Let Tony Snow do this job. He will not be able to stick to the script and his off-script quips will be major gaffs I bet.

It will be even MORE fun to see him challenged by REAL journalists.

Posted by: lilybart on April 19, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK
However, with speculation about Treasury Secretary John Snow's departure heating up, President Bush has apparently made the decision to conserve the number of people named Snow in his administration by offering Scotty's job to Fox News commentator Tony Snow. I don't know why Snow would accept a demotion like that, but that's the scuttlebutt.

How is it a demotion? Tony Snow will now be the official head shill for the Administration, rather than one of many unofficial-but-dedicated shills in the media. Seems like a promotion, to me, even if it does pay less.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 19, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

It is rearranging the Titanic deck chairs, because who the hell wants to be a new deck chair on this sinking ship?

Thirty-five percent of 1,008 U.S. adults surveyed in the telephone poll think Mr. Bush is doing an "excellent or pretty good" job as president, down from 36% in March and significantly lower than 43% in January. This compares with 63% of Americans who said Mr. Bush is doing an "only fair or poor" job, down from 64% in March.

Posted by: Ringo on April 19, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Seems like a promotion, to me, even if it does pay less.

Don't forget the free stuff!

Good god, Stefan, you were serious about Kaplan's big transformation? I figured you were making an off-the-wall joke about the immutable, one-note obsession of these neocons.

Posted by: shortstop on April 19, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

On the staff changes, today's Tom Toles cartoon is hilarious:

http://www.ucomics.com/tomtoles/
(I can't link properly. Sorry.)

It's not just pointedly funny in that political cartoon way, but the sight of a giant, hideous naked Rove lamp just made me giggle. (And then shudder.)

Posted by: snarktini on April 19, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

More changes... see First Family Shakeup?

Posted by: has407 on April 19, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Good god, Stefan, you were serious about Kaplan's big transformation? I figured you were making an off-the-wall joke about the immutable, one-note obsession of these neocons.

No, quite honestly, it's no joke. When I knew Joel back then he was a committed liberal Democrat, and we at one point worked together on signing up Dukakis delegates for the '88 Convention. I haven't really seen or socialized with him in the last ten years, apart from a few chance meetings here or there, but the person he must be now to work for that regime is not the person I used to consider a friend of mine.

Posted by: Stefan on April 19, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like the 'major changes' promised are just more lip service from the Bush administration...The neocon core is intact; Card, McClellan, and (possibly) Snow didn't have an impact on the policies in place...But all have a high enough profile for the administration to give the appearance of 'cleaning house' while not doing a damn thing differently.

Nothing will change unless Dubya, Cheney, Rove, and Rumsfeld step down...And they won't do that voluntarily.

Posted by: grape_crush on April 19, 2006 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Baghdad Bob is available. He's obviously got the kind of experience needed for Scottie's replacement, and I bet he'd work cheaper than Snow.

Posted by: biggerbox on April 19, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

speaking of fox news-
remember that guy Rick Fullbaughm (sp?)
i havent seen him ever since he did that special report on global warming??

Posted by: christAlmighty on April 19, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK


kevin: Karl Rove is stepping down, except that he's not. He's still deputy chief of staff, still chief policy aide, and still senior advisor, but he's giving up his role as "policy coordinator"


policy?


"There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus," says John DiIulio, former G.W. Bush domestic policy advisor. "What youve got is everythingand I mean everythingbeing run by the political arm. Its the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."

In a seven-page letter sent a few weeks after our first conversation, DiIulio, who still considers himself a passionate supporter of the president, offers a detailed account and critique of the time he spent in the Bush White House.

"I heard many, many staff discussions but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions," he writes. "There were no actual policy white papers on domestic issues. There were, truth be told, only a couple of people in the West Wing who worried at all about policy substance and analysis, and they were even more overworked than the stereotypical nonstop, twenty-hour-a-day White House staff. Every modern presidency moves on the fly, but on social policy and related issues, the lack of even basic policy knowledge, and the only casual interest in knowing more, was somewhat breathtaking: discussions by fairly senior people who meant Medicaid but were talking Medicare; near-instant shifts from discussing any actual policy pros and cons to discussing political communications, media strategy, et cetera. Even quite junior staff would sometimes hear quite senior staff pooh-pooh any need to dig deeper for pertinent information on a given issue."

Ron Suskind
January 1, 2003
Why Are These Men Laughing?
Esquire, January 2003


they don't need no stinkin policy....


Posted by: thsispaceavailable on April 19, 2006 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

30 comments and no one has quipped the 'rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic' line yet.

That's because the deck chairs have already fallen into the North Atlantic--there's no deck chairs to rearrange.

Guess we'll just have to wait until the ship sinks.

Posted by: Eric Hopp on April 19, 2006 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone know if the policy coordinator has security clearances not required of the positions Rove is keeping?

Posted by: Jimm on April 21, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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