When George W. Bush was asked at his press conference last week if he planned any staff changes to help him weather the storms he's facing, the president said, "Well, I'm not going to announce it right now."
Bush's choice of words suggested that more news would be coming, and it has just arrived: The president just annnounced that White House chief of staff Andrew Card will resign next month.
"I have relied on Andys wise counsel, his calm in crisis, his absolute integrity and his tireless commitment to public service," Bush said during an Oval Office appearance this morning. "The next three years will demand much of those who serve our country. We have a global war to fight and win."
The move comes as Bush's standing continues to fall in the polls -- every major poll released in the past two weeks has his approval rating in the 30s -- and the White House team, once revered for its efficiency and message discipline, increasingly seems star-crossed. While Card is well respected in Washington, the Washington Post notes that his stewardship has "come under question" after a "series of mishaps" including the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination, the mishandling of Dick Cheney's shooting accident and the ham-fisted work on the Dubai Ports World deal.
Bush administration critics and supporters both have been saying that the White House could benefit from some new blood, someone from the outside who could calm the nerves of jittery Republicans and help with the "tin ear" that seems to have developed inside the Bush bubble. If Card's resignation is the beginning and end of a White House staff shake-up, the president isn't going to oblige them: Bush said that Card will be replaced by budget director Josh Bolten, another longtime Bush hand. Bolten has served Bush, in various capacities, since the president took office in January 2001.
Card has been running the White House team since before Bush was even in the White House, taking over just three weeks after -- which is to say, before the resolution of -- the 2000 election. Tearing up, Card went before the cameras this morning to say that he was looking forward to just being Bush's friend. "You're a good man, Mr. President," he said.