May 23, 2004

Top Bush Aide Says Two-Thirds of High Political Appointees Need to Be Fired

A top Bush aide says that two-thirds of Bush's high political appointees are likely to be fired to "kick-start" a second term. But if a "kick-start" is needed, why haven't they been fired already? And if they have been doing a good enough job to be still in office, why do they need to be fired in January 2004?

What a clown show...

Political Wire: Aide Says Bush Will Clean House If Re-Elected: "President Bush might not keep his team intact if he's re-elected," Washington Whispers reports. "To kick-start a second term, he may replace up to two thirds of his cabinet and top political appointees." Says an aide: "Oh yeah, there'll be a big housecleaning." Meanwhile, the AP has more: "Bush's national security team, which has stayed remarkably intact despite missteps in Iraq and his slumping approval ratings, is likely to undergo a major facelift if Bush wins a second term. Maybe even before."

Posted by DeLong at May 23, 2004 03:31 PM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post

Oh, I see, *this* time we're supposed to really believe that if he's elected, he'll surround himself with intelligent people who know what they're doing, right?

Posted by: cyclopatra on May 23, 2004 03:46 PM


Looks like a trial balloon. See what the response is. He should be cautious not to make any big announcements before he's really committed. After all, couldn't some of those guys help out with the Mars mission?

Posted by: Saam Barrager on May 23, 2004 03:54 PM


Just got through watching Anthony Zinni on 60 Minutes. He's remarkably compelling, even more than Richard Clarke. He was horrified that "no heads have rolled" in Bush's national security team.

Well, now we know why: political survival is more important to Bush than doing what's right for the country.

So, who do you think goes if Bush is (GOD FORBID!!!) elected again? I bet Condi stays, Rummy, Wolffy and Feith are gone. Powell is out the door too, but by his own wishes.

Posted by: Brad Reed on May 23, 2004 04:52 PM


Brad says
"A top Bush aide says that two-thirds of Bush's high political appointees are likely to be fired "

The article in fact says

"To kick-start a second term, he may replace up to two thirds of his cabinet and top political appointees. "Oh yeah, there'll be a big housecleaning," says an aide. "

Ie the 2/3rd is the authours view; it is'nt attributed to the top aide, except by proximity - the word appears in the previous sentence.

Posted by: Giles on May 23, 2004 04:56 PM


Powell and Rice have already said they're leaving. Rumsfeld will be gone before the election, with a significant number of his cohorts. Cheney will not be the vice-presidential nominee, which will relieve us of another dangerous group. I don't know who's going to be left for the firing squad.

What this really is is a sop to the "middle" of the country, offering the hope that somehow, with someone else in charge, things will get better in a second Bush term.

Posted by: Handy Fuse on May 23, 2004 05:07 PM


Only two thirds?

Posted by: NBarnes on May 23, 2004 05:19 PM


nbarnes --

righto. how about three thirds.

Posted by: bianco on May 23, 2004 05:27 PM


Here's a game- let's make an "all-evil" Bush cabinet, with every major post given to the worst possible person for the job. My votes:

-Sec. Defense: Gen. William Boykin
-Sec. Treasury- Paul Craig Roberts
-Sec. State- Henry Kissinger
-National Security Adviser- Richard Perle
-Sec. of Labor- The Walton Family
-Press Secretary- Glenn Reynolds or Dennis Miller. You decide.

Posted by: Brad Reed on May 23, 2004 05:42 PM


It may be more than a trial balloon. This is an administration that is more deeply influenced by Richard Nixon than most people realize - a large number of key officials began under Nixon-Ford and/or were sponsored in their careers by those who did. Institutional memory has sticking power.

Nixon's second term started with a mass demand for letters of resignation for all top officials, many of which were accepted, in order to re-shape a determinedly hostile washington bureaucracy and centralize decision-making in the hands of Nixon and the White House staff.

The CSRA of 1978 and the Ford, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II administrations have shifted the civil service bureaucracy into a more even ( or less uneven) partisan balance but every White House loves centralized control.

Posted by: mark safranski on May 23, 2004 05:48 PM


We can only hope that, since 2/3s of them now know this is going to happen, they start ratting out on the Administration!

Although I'm not sure my own eyes will survive reading the inundation about mis- and malfeasance, I think it would go even further toward establishing Bush as the worse President we've ever had.

Off topic: is it possible that the American villainizing of Chalabi is an agreed-upon set-up, to make him look more palatable to the Iraqis themselves for a hand-over?

Posted by: Lee A. on May 23, 2004 06:13 PM


NOW we know the platform on which Bush will be running in 2004:


Makes sense to me.

Posted by: Alan on May 23, 2004 06:40 PM


The stated figure of 2/3 is a virtually worthless number without additional information. It could simply be Washington gossip; note the use of the word “may.” Moreover, we don’t know who said it, and how he (or perhaps she) arrived at that figure. I’d like to know the turnover rate for past two-term administrations. A lot of people get fed up with the Washington DC scene after four years, especially these days. As someone once put it: “In Washington they don’t only cast the first stone, they will throw the whole rock pile.” Who can identify the author of that quote (wording approximate)?

Posted by: A. Zarkov on May 23, 2004 06:50 PM


But wouldn't a housecleaning amount to admitting he made a mistake choosing these people in the first place? Isn't admitting mistakes anathema to the Bush Administration? Maybe he can find a way to blame these appointments on Clinton...

Posted by: rps on May 23, 2004 07:04 PM


Well gee if he's gonna do that I'll vote for him of course because it'll be clear that nothing is his fault.

Posted by: Bean on May 23, 2004 07:25 PM


Sure there will be changes. More, and more talented crooks. They will have no reason not to ramp up their thievery to levels which will make the first term look like the New Deal. These boys gotta go...All of 'em, right now.

Posted by: Sargent Ripper on May 23, 2004 07:31 PM


Two thirds sounds like a lot even if it isn't. And reading the AP account of who might replace who reminded me of Steve Martin's "Cruel Shoes" monologue.

It's too late for a house cleaning, because after three years of this administration, there's almost no one left who isn't tainted, fed up, or both.

I don't think this is a trial balloon. I think it's another primal scream from someone in the administration who's seen enough. It's not as though that's been a rare occurrence lately...

Posted by: Tom Marney on May 23, 2004 07:36 PM


Lee A, since Chalabi screamed on the talk shows all day today that Tenet has set him up, I'm wondering if it's a way to make Tenet the fall guy.

Posted by: pol on May 23, 2004 08:32 PM


Slightly OT but another window into the continuing clown show. Bush fell of his bike because the rain made the topsoil slippery; DailyKos has the precipitation record for Crawford: no rain for 8 days, and one story has W picking himself up and brushing off the dust.

Posted by: Brian Boru on May 23, 2004 08:46 PM


"He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built,
and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the
shoulders, head forward, and a fixed from-under stare which
made you think of a charging bull." Conrad, "Lord Jim"

I can't help thinking over yet over again this BushCo production
of "Lord Jim in Iraq" is just so much high school variety show,
with George himself miscast as Jim, his lack of life experience
leaving no skills to play Jim's part in pathos. Instead we get a
braggado and buffoonery of the sophomore self-mesmerized.

Then there's Chalabi in the role of Chester, a silk-suited prig
riche, playing the part of that "barrel-chested pearler, wrecker,
trader, whaler (and con man)". Allied with Chalabi-Chester, there's
Don Rumsfeld playing Old Robinson the Cannibal, a captain who lost
his ship on the reef, and then ate his fellow cast-aways.

"He's got a little money, so I had to let him into my thing,"
winces Chester-Chalabi, hiding a silk-pursed smirk, "Had to!"
So he brings Robinson-Rumsfeld in, singing the siren song of
"rose petals and sweets" and with him the Neo-Luddites, Rove,
Wolfowitz, Cheney and Perle, all self-deluded academics and
bureaucrats of no account and no life experience themselves,
conned by the greater con, as is every miscreants bitter end.

Together, they sell Jim-George on the adventure of a life time.
A war of conquest against impossible odds, its approaches too
dangerous, and no safe anchorage save far beneath a cliff. Their
ship a mere shell, an old, brig-rigged lugger of ninety horses,
crammed with civilian advisors and henchmen lusting for gold.
Chester-Chalabi as the thief-conman, Robinson-Rumsfeld as the
cannibal-captain, and Jimmy-George, the strumpeting lunatic.

It's a tragi-comedy in a way. Jim-George over-acting his part,
soto voce falsetto "bring it on", we sail with the crew towards
our island of guano, and guano it is, sticking, deep, sucking.
We are trapped now, all of US mired in an ancient chess game,
taken en passant. And Jim-George, so inept, like those losers
on American Idol, has no clue how effetely he plays.

So there we're sucked in now, our $100's of BILLION dollars gone,
our own little Iraq of guano, our ship wrecked beneath the cliff,
our captain, Cannibal Rumsfeld, shrieking "I'm a survivor!" when
he'd as soon eat our livers with fava beans and a nice Chianti.

It's interminable, this last act. Will it never end? Will the
curtain never come down on this cosmic farce of a tragi-comedy??

"And that's the end. GW passes away under a cloud, inscrutable
at heart, forgotten, unforgiven, and excessively romantic."

Ahh, there it is, the curtain call! God, I love high-school!

Posted by: Tante Aime on May 23, 2004 10:27 PM


Dudes: This is scary, not encouraging. A re-elected Bush who doesn't have to fear facing the voters again will undoubtedly go even further to the right, "house-cleaning" almost certainly means that any semi-reasonable people left in the administration will be canned.

Let's see, you might have Nationa Security Advisor Elliot Abrams, Sec of State Condi Rice, Rummy's doing a great job so we'll keep him.

And there's no reason to think that Feith, etc will lose their jobs. This administration rewards ideological loyalty over all else, there's no damn reason in the world to think that the 2nd term won't be run in a more radical ideological manner than the first.

In fact, in the second term when we decide to invade Syria or Iran W almost certainly won't make the "mistake" of going to the UN again.

Posted by: Pjhawk on May 24, 2004 02:58 AM


I hope we can fire 100% of those right wing Republicans.

Posted by: Elaine Supkis on May 24, 2004 05:22 AM


At least one of them might leave voluntarily anyway, now that his $400 per rim-shot-playtoy "Washingtonienne" has been ousted from her senate staff job for writing about it:

Posted by: paulo on May 24, 2004 05:32 AM


Maybe they meant 2/3rds would be tried as war criminals

Posted by: Palolo lolo on May 24, 2004 05:55 AM


".....likely to undergo a major facelift if Bush wins a second term. __Maybe even before__"

so perhaps the incompetence will be allowed to continue a few months, just to make a political splash right before the election? How about some synergy across October surprises -- the departure of the two-thirds could be presented as a consequence of injuries and casualties bravely suffered in a heroic surprise capture of bin Laden at the very gates of the White House.

Posted by: David on May 24, 2004 06:32 AM


Posted by: Adrian Spidle on May 24, 2004 07:04 AM


The “oh, yeah, there’ll be a big housecleaning” quote sounds like somebody who thinks his team is winning. A “big housecleaning” to a guy with domestic policy responsibilities might mean Commerce and EPA – some of these folks are pretty narrowly focused.

The AP story has much more detail, and I’m not sure that the tally of departures is all that different from prior administrations on their way into a second term (god forbid). The econ team has already turned over once, and the economy is doing much better, so you wouldn’t expect major changes there. EPA has turned over already. The press office has turned over. DoD is in the middle of a war, so a turn over there would be news, indeed. Commerce is in charge of raising campaign money, and that seems to have gone fairly well. HHS? No idea. Justice? AP says he’s staying (curse the luck). Is this any more than a straight-out-ot-the-box election year story? Don’t we see this “big cabinet changes coming” story whenever a first term president runs for reelection?


Chalabi is a neo-con darling. If Tenet set him up, then given the current political atmosphere, Tenet has demonstrated once again how to hold on to your job even if you don’t do it very well.

Posted by: K Harris on May 24, 2004 07:07 AM


What about bringing in Jed Bartlett's team?

The WHOLE team!

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on May 24, 2004 08:35 AM


Perhaps this is an attempt to mollify Republican voters who think that "if only the Czar knew" about the abuses committed by his underlings, he would surely set things right.

Posted by: Seth Gordon on May 24, 2004 09:05 AM


What team????

Posted by: me on May 24, 2004 09:07 AM


Typo: at the end of the first paragraph, I think you mean "January 2005", not "January 2004".

Posted by: James on May 24, 2004 10:34 AM


Didn't The Onion do a story a couple months back like this, with Bush positioning himself as the candidate of change in this election? (They've gone pay now, so I can't even do a search.)

Posted by: RT on May 24, 2004 10:48 AM


They need to make room for a new set of lobbyists to run things. The current crew has gotten most of what they want and there are so many mouths to feed...

Posted by: Mark on May 24, 2004 11:01 AM


Reminds me of "Deadwood," in which Ian McShane's character, Al Swearengen, said the other night, "Ad fucking hoc."

Posted by: JK on May 24, 2004 11:16 AM


Speaking about the popularity or unpopularity of Bush right now, I always keep an eye on the Iowa Electronic Markets to see what people are willing to bet on.

So the interesting thing about the Vote Share market for the last two or three months is how far out of line it is with the polling data; Bush has been up be a very consistent 5 points or so since the beginning of March.

So, just for yucks, I took a look at the number of buy/sell orders on the Bush|Kerry and Kerry contracts, reasoning that if this were really what the market was saying, that we should have the numbers of sold would be in balance; if you buy Kerry, you sell Bush or vice versa. Actually, though, it doesn't necessarily work that way since, when you buy in, your $1 gets you $1 worth of contracts at the current marketprice. Most contracts are worth about zero, though, since (say) a Gephardt vote share contract has as much chance of a return as Bush|Kerry and Kerry contracts are worth over $.99 on the dollar put together.

Anyway, this turned out to be interesting. First of all, trading in the market was rather thinner than I would have supposed, and the Bush advantage would be easy to engineer. Second, there have now been some pretty massive (for the size of the market) imbalance in the number of Bush and Kerry contracts offered for sale. The data are noisy, so here are 10-day totals starting in April:

Apr 1-10 Bush-Kerry: 203
Apr 10-20 Bush-Kerry: -87
Apr 21-30 Bush-Kerry: 298
May 1-10 Bush-Kerry: 41
May 11-20 Bush-Kerry: 1333
May 21-now Bush-Kerry: 847

In other words, people are selling more Bush contracts than Kerry contracts. Given the striking stability in price (until the last two weeks), my guess is that that somebody was buying a lot of Bush contracts at ~.52, but then either stopped doing so, or started selling them off. Yeah, it's only a couple thousand contracts, but the stampede to the door effect here is pretty obvious in the data.

Anybody out there specialize in micro-effects in (not so) effcient markets? This is a gold mine...

Posted by: Jonathan King on May 24, 2004 12:18 PM


The danger is that the next political appointees will not be hampered by having to be re-elected and so they wil be even more extreme then the current batch of political appointees. Just look at who is staying, Dick Cheney who is about as extreme as you can get. Powell and Rice have already announced that they are leaving at the end of this term so how hard is it to predict that there will be a shake-up.

Posted by: Karl on May 24, 2004 12:36 PM


Of course, Bush might have to replace 2/3rds because that will be the number frog-marched out of their offices.

Posted by: joe on May 24, 2004 12:51 PM


Seems to me we have an in-house expert at SDJ, on the question of first term political appointees who choose to pursue other interests even before a second term starts.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on May 24, 2004 01:01 PM


As I expected--now that I've looked it up--Clinton had replaced over 70% of his original Cabinet by the start of his second term. Only Shalala (HHSS), Babbitt (Int.), Riley (Educ.), and Reno served all eight years. And, at Defense and Commerce, he had two Sec'ys each who didn't make the cut for the second term.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on May 24, 2004 01:17 PM


hell yeah, 2/3 of the Bush people need to be fired ... and let's start at the top, with Bush himself.

Keep Condi around. She's smart and knows foreign policy -- and without the Bush crew around her, she might actually make some sound decisions.

Oh, and let's start at the bottom, too -- by electing a new group of progressive Democrats to Congress this time around -- that way, if Bush IS re-elected, we can stop him from sending America to hell.

Posted by: ANDY PAC on May 24, 2004 01:21 PM


Why not three thirds?

Posted by: The Dude on May 24, 2004 03:02 PM


The only way this will work for the Repunbs is if the Bush fires the top political appointee in his administration: himself.

Posted by: The Fool on May 24, 2004 03:07 PM


Lee A. writes: "Off topic: is it possible that the American villainizing of Chalabi is an agreed-upon set-up, to make him look more palatable to the Iraqis themselves for a hand-over?"

It's also possible that

1) Iraqis don't like or trust Chalabi, especially the Sunnis.
2) They think we're going to put Chalabi in control
3) For this reason we're getting resistance from them

So in order to smooth the transfer to whoever gets power, we're distancing ourselves from Chalabi.

If the idea was to prop up Chalabi's street cred by raiding his place, I don't see the point of raising the allegations of leaking secrets to Iran. The currency change shenanigans would have been plenty. Turning over Iraq to a guy who is in league with a member of the "Axis of Evil" would not go over well at home.

Posted by: Jon H on May 24, 2004 04:16 PM


Tante Aime-

You have made reading this chain a significant literary pleasure.



Posted by: Sam Taylor on May 24, 2004 06:53 PM


RT wrote, "Didn't The Onion do a story a couple months back like this, with Bush positioning himself as the candidate of change in this election?"

The one I remember went something like "vote Bush/Cheney to restore dignity to the White House in 2004!"

On this topic...another one in _The Onion_ recently which was a real hoot was this "News Briefs" headline: "Bush To Iraqi Militants: 'Please Stop Bringing It On' ".

Posted by: liberal on May 24, 2004 07:29 PM


Only the appointed ones? Let's start with the elected ones!

Posted by: Bibliotrope on May 24, 2004 09:30 PM


I was going to say Bush should fire himself, but I see two other people have written that already.

I'm so mundane <:(

Posted by: Bobby on May 25, 2004 07:51 AM


How about firing them tommorow? As a federal civil (uncivil) servant this group is the worst (Carters' are close) since 1975. Fire them all while you still have career people who aren't robots.

Posted by: tmcotter on May 25, 2004 07:29 PM


How about firing them tommorow? As a federal civil (uncivil) servant this group is the worst (Carters' are close) since 1975. Fire them all while you still have career people who aren't robots.

Posted by: tmcotter on May 25, 2004 07:29 PM


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