- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 24, 2002

White House Counselor Karen Hughes said yesterday she will resign this summer and return to Texas, leaving President Bush without his most trusted adviser for the first time in eight years.
It is the first high-profile departure from the 15-month-old Bush administration and will leave a major gap in the president's inner circle. Both Mr. Bush and Mrs. Hughes said she will continue to advise the president in an unofficial capacity.
"Our family concluded that we wanted to live in Texas," Mrs. Hughes said in an interview with The Washington Times. "And I feel blessed that I have a boss who is understanding enough to respect that decision and let me continue to be involved in his administration."
Mrs. Hughes broke the news last week to Mr. Bush, who yesterday insisted he had no problem with losing out to her family.
"Her husband and son will be happier in Texas, and she had put her family ahead of her service to my government," Mr. Bush told reporters in the Oval Office. "I am extremely grateful for that approach and that priority."
He added: "Karen Hughes will be changing her address, but she will still be in my inner circle."
Mrs. Hughes has been a strong force in shaping the president's message, handling everything from minor editing of his weekly radio address to delivering a televised address to the nation while the president made his way home on September 11. When Mr. Bush finally returned to the White House, he was greeted outside the Oval Office by Mrs. Hughes.
She was stung recently by a USA Today story that portrayed her as micromanaging the list of administration officials who will attend next month's White House Correspondents' Association dinner.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer countered: "One of the little secrets of Karen is she is actually a big delegator. I think that the people who know Karen understand that."
Administration officials insist Mrs. Hughes was happy in her job, although her husband, Jerry, and 15-year-old son, Robert, had difficulty adjusting to Washington. Robert is a freshman at St. Albans, an elite, all-boys school in Washington that told the Hughes family it had until May 1 to decide whether he would return next year.
Although Mrs. Hughes will no longer be a White House employee, she said plans to travel "back and forth to Washington a great deal. I'm going to be on the phone, on the computer, on the fax" to the president.
"My commute will be longer, but I hope the distance will give me somewhat of a different perspective that will be valuable," she told the Times. "I know that it won't be exactly the same as being here in the White House.
"But when it comes to big, strategic decisions, when it comes to strategic communicating and messages, I will be very involved," she said.
For example, Mrs. Hughes said she expects to travel to Camp David next January to help write the president's State of the Union address, as she did this past January. Also, she will make herself available for his re-election campaign.
"I told the president that if he chooses to run for re-election, and if he wants me to come travel with him for the last few months of the campaign, I will be glad to do that," she said. "I'm his number-one advocate."
Mrs. Hughes, 45, spent the first seven years of her career as a television reporter. She then became involved in public relations and the Texas Republican Party, joining Mr. Bush's gubernatorial campaign in 1994.
Mrs. Hughes said she does not expect Mr. Bush to elevate White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett to the job of counselor. Mr. Bartlett is the president's longest-serving staffer.
Aside from the departure of Mrs. Hughes, the president's inner circle remains largely unchanged. That is a marked contrast to former President Clinton's staff, which saw several major reshufflings during his first 15 months in office.

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