Josh Bolten, a promotion or just falling upward?

He has presided over massive growth in the federal debt -- but he also checked Cheney on 9/11.

By Tim Grieve

Published March 28, 2006 3:21PM (EST)

The president is a powerful man, and he proved it again this morning by defying the laws of gravity: Announcing that White House budget director Josh Bolten will become his next chief of staff, George W. Bush made it clear that it's possible to fall upward.

It's not the first time.

Condoleezza Rice serves as an architect of the war in Iraq and misleads the nation in the process; she gets promoted to the job of secretary of state. Alberto Gonzales presides over the creation of the president's torture policies; he gets promoted to the job of attorney general.

The man Bush has chosen as his new chief of staff? As Think Progress notes, Bolten has presided over a $1.8 trillion increase in the federal debt in just 24 months as the president's budget director.

To be fair, the Washington Post notes that Bolten has overseen two consecutive budgets that cut overall nonsecurity discretionary domestic spending. But that's a little like congratulating yourself for clipping coupons for groceries while dropping 100 grand on an adventure vacation and a new Hummer: Between Bush's tax cuts and the war in Iraq, cuts in nonsecurity discretionary domestic spending aren't enough to keep the books balanced.

There is this to like about Bolten, however: When Dick Cheney started handing out orders to shoot down a jetliner on 9/11, it was Bolten who had the nerve to suggest that he "confirm" his authority to do so with the president first.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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