- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2007

President Bush yesterday named Washington lobbyist and Republican strategist Ed Gillespie as his counselor, replacing Dan Bartlett as one of his top advisers.

“He’s a seasoned hand. He’s got excellent judgment. He’s a strategic thinker. And I know he’ll do a fine job,” Mr. Bush said in the Oval Office, with Mr. Gillespie sitting at his right hand.

Mr. Bartlett, who has worked for Mr. Bush for 14 years and became one of the president’s closest advisers, sat on a couch to Mr. Gillespie’s right.

“I never thought I’d be able to find somebody to possibly do as good a job as he’s done,” Mr. Bush said of Mr. Bartlett. “I’m fortunate that Ed Gillespie has agreed to join the administration.”

White House spokesman Tony Snow said that Mr. Bartlett, 36, “has one of the most extraordinary relationships with a politician I’ve ever seen.”

Mr. Bartlett first worked for Mr. Bush during his run for governor of Texas in 1993.

“He and the president have a close personal kind of relationship, I think, probably unlike any aide and any president in quite a long time,” Mr. Snow said, adding that Mr. Bartlett’s familiarity with Mr. Bush allowed him to be “ruthlessly” honest with the president when necessary.

Mr. Bartlett announced earlier this month that he was leaving his post around July 4 to take a private-sector job and spend more time with his wife and three young children.

Mr. Gillespie, 45, who will begin work June 27, toured the White House press room after the announcement, greeting reporters and reluctantly fielding a few questions.

He said that he and Mr. Bush “have what I would characterize as a comfortable relationship.”

“I’ve worked for him before,” said Mr. Gillespie, who joined the Bush/Cheney 2000 campaign as a communications adviser after several years working on Capitol Hill.

He said he is looking forward to working with the Democratic-controlled Congress.

“I have a lot of friends up there. I know a lot of folks,” Mr. Gillespie said.

He said that even though he was chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) from 2003 to 2005, “I have friends on both sides of the aisle.”

“He brings an understanding and respect of many of the key constituencies to getting out the message — the Hill, the press, the news media, the grass roots. He’s also smart at formulating the message,” said Ken Mehlman, another Bush ally who succeeded Mr. Gillespie as RNC chairman, and is now a partner at a D.C. law firm.

Last year, Mr. Gillespie was elected as chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV), a post from which he resigned yesterday.

“Obviously, if seven months ago I had any idea that I would be asked to serve our president and our country in this new capacity less than a year after being elected to lead the RPV, I never would have sought the chairmanship,” Mr. Gillespie wrote in a letter yesterday to state party members.

Mr. Gillespie also played a pivotal role in shepherding Mr. Bush’s two Supreme Court nominees — Samuel A. Alito Jr. and John G. Roberts Jr. — through their nomination processes.

Mr. Mehlman said Mr. Gillespie will be “a great asset” to Mr. Bush.