Bush's new team scores A-list names
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For all the new Bush appointees, too, entering the fray while the president is at a low point means there's no place to go but up. For an outsider like Tony Snow, jumping in now means he is free of the uncomfortable questions his predecessor, Scott McClellan, faced over various controversies, including the Valerie Plame scandal - the case of the CIA employee whose exposed identity has entangled top White house officials. Early on, Mr. McClellan said things that later proved to be untrue.Skip to next paragraph
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The early reviews on Mr. Snow have been positive - at least as an articulate, telegenic public persona for an administration under fire.
"Snow had a presence right away," says Paul Light, a public-policy professor at New York University.
How much Snow can prove to be the "full-service press secretary" he says he intends to be remains an open question. For now, that involves fiddling with reporters' malfunctioning tape recorders on the podium during briefings. But will he improve the press corps' access to officials and information? Bush's communications strategy has already been evolving for some time: He has been more open to taking potentially hostile questions in public forums, and more willing to admit mistakes. When USA Today broke the story about data mining of phone calls, Bush was out responding within hours.
"They're all good appointments," Professor Light says, referring to Paulson, Snow, and Bolten. But "I don't think they reshuffle the deck in terms of public approval so late in the term."
Among other recent personnel changes, many have involved old faces taking new assignments: US Trade Representative Rob Portman is now budget director, replacing Bolten. Mr. Portman's deputy, Susan Schwab, has been tapped for the top trade job. Political guru Karl Rove lost his policy portfolio, which was taken over by Joel Kaplan, former deputy budget director. Michael Hayden was easily confirmed to replace Porter Goss at the CIA, after an initial burst of controversy over General Hayden's role in secret surveillance programs from his days running the National Security Agency.
But another recent appointee who would never have gained much notice outside the Beltway did cause a flap. Two days after Karl Zinsmeister was announced May 24 as Bush's domestic policy director, it was revealed that he had doctored some quotes in a profile of himself posted on the website of the magazine he edited, The American Enterprise. Mr. Zinsmeister later told The Washington Post that what he did was "foolish."
Talk continues that Bolten might retool the White House's congressional liaison office and bring more change to the communications team. But discussion that Bush might bring a "graybeard," perhaps a former senator, into the White House as a senior adviser to help improve relations with Congress and project an image of stability has died down. Still, some analysts suggest the retooling so far may not be enough for Republicans eager for major change - especially heading into a tough campaign season.
"I don't think it's the shake-up the Republicans were longing for," says Light. "But it may be enough to stop further conversation for more shake-up."