WASHINGTON — Loyalty to the president is a big deal in the White House, but loyalty can be a one-way street. Early in the investigation of the Valerie Plame-CIA leak, a presidentialspokesman flatly denied that deputy chief of staff Karl Rove was involved. But the president more recently has been saying that one should await the outcome of the ongoing investigation.
History offers examples of intimate aides who serve "at the pleasure of the president" having to resign when the president has reasons for displeasure.
President Eisenhower's chief of staff, Sherman Adams, was forced out after accepting gifts such as a vicuña coat from a friend in the textile business.
Lyndon Johnson dropped his close friend and adviser, Walter Jenkins, who was involved in a homosexual incident.
Richard Nixon threw his two favorite aides - chief of staff H.R. Haldeman and domestic adviser John Erlichman - to the wolves, hoping to save himself from Watergate. It didn't work. And when Erlichman, convicted of perjury, appealed to Nixon for a pardon, his dear friend ignored him.
Jimmy Carter had to dispense with close friend and budget adviser Bert Lance for banking irregularities that occurred before Mr. Carter took office.
Ronald Reagan turned his back on his national security adviser, Admiral John Poindexter, who became enmeshed in the Iran-contra affair.
And the first President Bush replaced his chief of staff, John Sununu, for brusque manners and wrongful use of government transportation.
So it is rare for a president to stand behind an aide - no matter how devoted - who has caused him embarrassment.
This is not to suggest that President Bush would ditch Karl Rove, the architect of his two presidential campaigns. Mr. Rove has been seen walking with Mr. Bush and sitting behind him at a Cabinet meeting, but the president has mainly left it to his press spokesman, Scott McClellan, to say that Rove "has the confidence of the president."
Where have we heard that before?
• Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.