- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2001

In little more than a week, everything at the White House absolutely everything has changed.
Out are the 20-something, denim-wearing, pony-tailed Clintonites known for strewing pizza boxes throughout the halls; the perpetually late president who some media wags said never changed his watch from Arkansas time; the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week news cycle that often saw huge stories break on Friday nights after the evening network news aired.
In are the 30- and 40-something, box-cut, scrubbed-clean, suit-and-tie-wearing Bushies; the scrupulously punctual president who starts his day just after 7 each morning; and a weekday 9-5 news cycle that ends with an announcement over the speaker in the press office that the "lid" is on.
"There's a real sense of calmness about the White House now. The adults have arrived," noted Gary Aldrich, a former FBI agent who worked at the White House in the early 1990s at the end of the Bush administration and the beginning of the Clinton term.
The first days of the Clinton administration were just the opposite.
"The omnipresent feeling was confusion," said Scott Segal, a Democratic strategist and attorney who worked on the Clinton campaign. "We weren't at all used to the rhythm of executive leadership. The Bush team is."
So far, the Bush administration has been focused on the details, which is making White House visitors happy including congressional leaders.
"What I really like is we started on time and we ended on time," said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott after a White House meeting last week. "I mean, at 1 o'clock, the meeting was over." President Bush then walked to another room in the White House to kick off a 1 p.m. event at exactly 1:01.
Veteran White House workers knew from the first day of the Bush presidency that things were about to be very different. The Bush White House woke up early that day, with the president on the job at 7:28 a.m. He attended an early morning national security briefing as work crews were beginning to gather to dismantle the inaugural parade reviewing stands on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Mr. Bush's first event was scheduled for 9:05 a.m. It began at 9:04. His next was set for 1 p.m. The president took three minutes of questions from reporters at 12:57, then kicked out the press and started the meeting right on time.
The new punctuality is radically different from when the White House ran on CST Clinton Standard Time.
President Clinton rarely began any event on time, and was late so often that reporters and photographers would plan to arrive at events 30 minutes late so as to cut down what usually was a wait of an hour or more.
Mr. Clinton's lack of punctuality like Mr. Bush's promptness also began on his first day in office. Mr. Clinton, wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea were nearly 20 minutes late for a pre-inaugural White House meeting with former President Bush and his wife, Barbara.
Mr. Clinton's tardiness became a source of humor for some on his staff. At one point, Clinton spokesman George Stephanopoulos wore a black and white sticker around the White House that read: "He's running a few minutes late."
Another major change at the White House is the suddenly finite news cycle. Especially in the later years, after Mr. Clinton's White House got in the habit of leaking damaging news after the network newscasts ended at 7:30 p.m., reporters were often at the White House well into the night working on breaking stories.
That, too, began early in the Clinton term.
When former attorney general-designate Zoe E. Baird admitted she knowingly hired two illegal immigrants and had not paid Social Security taxes for them, the White House released her written admission at 1:22 in the morning.
Throughout Mr. Clinton's two terms, stories broke all weekend long early, late and frequently without warning. Photographers and network cameramen cashed in, working 60-hour weeks and sometimes doubling their salaries through overtime pay.
But all that has now changed. One day last week, the White House press office announced a "photo lid" meaning there would be no more opportunities to photograph the president at just after 2 p.m. That same day, the office announced a "news lid" at 5:20 p.m. The press room was all but empty by 6.
"I'm beginning to like these guys," one reporter said as he packed up to go home in time for dinner. But cameramen feel differently. "These guys better get me some overtime or my kids aren't going to college," a cameraman said.
The biggest change, however, is the type of people now employed at the White House. Mr. Clinton brought a staff of young, brash up-and-comers to Washington, but few had spent much time in government.
"We didn't have the kind of experience running the White House certainly not the kind of experience George W. Bush and the people around him have," said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic strategist. She noted that over the last 32 years, Democrats have held the presidency for just 12 of those years, meaning they have a smaller pool of experienced White House personnel from which to draw upon.
But the Clinton administration was far less disciplined than former President Bush's administration, as well as the current Bush White House.
"The level of discipline always reflects the person at the top. Mr. Bush ran a very disciplined campaign, but Clinton had an enormously difficult time bringing the discipline of his campaign over to the White House," said Miss Marsh.
One reason, Mr. Aldrich said, is because the Clinton team "tossed all the career business people out of the White House in favor of political appointees."
He said Clinton personnel were not only "unbusinesslike," they were downright hostile.
"They said, 'We're the new kids on the block and we're going to do it our way, so stuff it,' " said Mr. Aldrich, author of "Unlimited Access," an insider book critical of the Clinton White House. "We saw no awe from them, no reverence."
The Bush team, however, is different. "In one word, it's quality. Bush's people have virtue, civility, respect… . They're polished, very polite, inscrutable," he said.
That "quality" is visible in the day-to-day operation of the White House press machine. The eight-year reign of men in dungarees and young women in pantsuits and short dresses which once made Mr. Aldrich feel as if he had strayed into a Hooters restaurant has given way to a Republican rule of button-down shirts, tailored suits and women in business attire.
While there is no new dress code, one Bush aide said there is an unwritten creed:
"Be professional. Never forget it's an honor just to be here," she said.


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