Yesterday Mr. Bush responded to his unsought counselors as he usually does, by ignoring them. He accepted the resignation of his notoriously long-serving, notoriously hard-working chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., but he did not exactly replace him with a fresh face. Joshua B. Bolten will have a shorter walk to his new office from his current perch at the Office of Management and Budget than a relief pitcher’s jog to the mound. And as Mr. Bolten told C-SPAN’s “Q&A” last year, he has been “a part of the president’s senior team from the beginning, from the beginning of his 2000 campaign.”
If you hoped that Mr. Bush might respond to some of his setbacks by adjusting some of his policies, this “shake-up” is even less likely to satisfy. We might dream that Mr. Bush would look at the mounting evidence of human-induced climate change and offer a policy response; or notice the baleful impact of high oil prices on his foreign policy and get serious about alternative energy; or acknowledge the plunge from fiscal surplus to deficit in his tenure with a shift in tax policy. But a prod for change is unlikely to come from Mr. Bolten, who told Brian Lamb in the same C-SPAN interview that what he brought to OMB was “a good appreciation of what is important to the president and how we can contribute to accomplishing his agenda.” Other personnel changes may follow, but the lesson of this one is that Mr. Bush sees no need for new thinking.
Even a casual observer of the Bush White House could have told you that a wholesale change in the inner circle wasn’t going to happen because, in their minds, they were not doing anything wrong. They’re just tired. And Karl Rove, the man who really runs the show, the one with the president’s ear and the one who makes the calculated decisions that reflect both the politics and the reality of what the administration really wants to accomplish, still has his job. So the president could name Teddy the Wonder Lizard as his new Chief of Staff and the life as they know it would still go on.