For most Americans, the indelible image of Andrew Card's tenure as White House chief of staff comes from the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. As the president sits in a Florida grade-school classroom, Card approaches from his right, whispers in his ear, then disappears from the screen again -- without, it seems, waiting for any kind of response from the president, who continues to sit for several minutes more.
For us, the indelible image came a little later. We met Card once, in October 2004, just before his boss was to debate John Kerry in St. Louis. The internets were swirling with questions about the mysterious bulge that had appeared on Bush's back during the previous debate. When we saw the president's chief of staff in spin alley, we thought that he'd surely be able to put an end to the speculation.
We asked Card if the president had worn some sort of listening device in his first debate with Kerry. "If he was," Card said, "I didn't know about it." Was Bush wearing a bulletproof vest? "No, he was not, not to my knowledge." Was it some kind of medical device? "Not to my knowledge." Realizing that all the qualified "no" answers weren't enough, Card switched into some Bush-as-Everyman spin. The president is "a regular guy," he told us. "Maybe his suit had a little lump in it or something. I'll tell you, he was dressed for the opportunity to talk to the American people, and I am not aware of anything that was extraordinary in what he was wearing."