Are Scott McClellan and John Snow on the block?

The White House may be planning to fire some people. But don't call this a "shake-up."


Farhad Manjoo
April 3, 2006 8:39PM (UTC)

Is the White House planning a true personnel "shake-up" to rehabilitate not just its image but also its competency? No, not really. But Scott McClellan and John Snow may soon announce that they want to spend a lot more time with their families. Meanwhile Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin are likely to stay put.

According to CNN, McClellan and Snow -- the White House press secretary and the secretary of the treasury -- are top on the list to be replaced during the next couple of weeks. Republicans say they don't like McClellan because he has been unable to effectively convey to the American people why Bush is so awesome, and they don't like Snow because he has been unable to effectively convey to the American people why Bush's economy is so awesome. That Bush and his economy may not in fact be so awesome seems not to have occurred to very many Republicans.

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"There is a lot of dissatisfaction with the state of communications, the daily communication from the podium, the congressional communications and strategic communications from both in and outside the White House," one "White House insider" tells CNN. Josh Bolten, who will soon replace Andy Card as White House chief of staff, is described by similar insiders as being "very logical," and thus he'd look to McClellan as the reason for the failure to communicate. The odd thing, though, is that according to CNN, McClellan's likely replacement is thought to be Dan Bartlett, who has long headed the very same White House communications strategy that Republicans now decry. How replacing McClellan with Bartlett would change anything substantive at the White House remains unclear -- and, perhaps for that reason, and the fact that McClellan and Bush go way back, some on the right doubt that Bush would turn heel on young Scotty.

Snow, on the other hand, is a different story. Nobody likes the treasury secretary, not even Bush, apparently. CNN says that the president has already offered Snow's job to Dick Parsons, the CEO of Time Warner (CNN's corporate parent), but Parsons turned it down. Snow's own team tells CNN that the secretary's job is safe for now, but one person adds, "He's not going to be turning down the lights in January 2009 for the next guy to come in."

Most other top officials in the administration don't look to be on the block, CNN reports. The network doesn't mention the prospects for Donald Rumsfeld, though, and as the New York Times points out, calls for Rumsfeld's resignation have been rising. On "Meet the Press" yesterday, Gen. Anthony Zinni, who headed Centcom in the late 1990s, said Rumsfeld should be held liable for "not adhering to the advice that was being given to us by others." Another former general, Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military in 2003 and 2004, has also called for Rumsfeld to step down.

But don't be surprised if these calls for Rumsfeld's resignation from within the military only bolster Bush's support for his secretary of defense. After all, when has the president ever listened to generals?


Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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