- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2002

Republicans expressed shock yesterday at reports that White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. discussed internal dissent within the Bush administration in a magazine interview.
The White House has been remarkably leak-proof during President Bush's first 17 months in office, and Mr. Card's comments in the July issue of Esquire are the first major breach in what some have called the administration's "wall of silence" about internal disagreements over policy.
"The idea that Andy Card would talk about these things in such a goofy way doesn't make sense," said Grover Norquist, a conservative activist and confidant of White House chief political strategist Karl Rove.
Mr. Card told Esquire that the expected departure of presidential adviser and longtime Bush confidante Karen P. Hughes would leave Mr. Rove as the sole remaining powerhouse among those who have the ear of President Bush.
That's bad, Mr. Card suggested, because Mr. Rove is more conservative than the pragmatic Mrs. Hughes, who plans to return to Texas this summer to spend more time with her family.
While Mrs. Hughes said she plans to continue advising Mr. Bush, from afar, on how best to present his messages to the media and the public, Mr. Card said no one else on the White House staff has the gravity to counter Mr. Rove's influence.
"The key balance around here has been between Karen and Karl Rove," Mr. Card said, according to a New York Times account of the Esquire story.
An aide yesterday told The Washington Times that Mr. Rove would not discuss the Card interview.
In the Esquire interview, Mr. Card "fretted" that with Mrs. Hughes gone, Mr. Bush's popularity in the polls would drop and Mr. Card would get blamed for it.
Several Republicans said yesterday that the Esquire interview would only strengthen Mr. Rove's position in the administration and that Mr. Card, who was transportation secretary in the first Bush administration, had committed political suicide.
"The comments attributed to Card certainly help Rove with the president's conservative base," said Mr. Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. "And it certainly doesn't hurt Karl to have someone say he is driven by principle and that he is very powerful."
Another Republican who meets often with Mr. Rove said privately that Mr. Card's comments about Mr. Rove "are unlikely to keep Mr. Rove up at night. I don't think he feels insulted that somebody might think he now runs the show."
Mr. Card's Esquire interview was "unusual for this administration because it has presented to the outside world that it is in lockstep, whatever internal disagreements may exist," said American Conservative Union Chairman David A. Keene. "This is the first time a fight inside has been made known outside."
Gary Kreep, executive director of the conservative California-based U.S. Justice Foundation, suggests that Mr. Card "is probably trying to exert himself to gain more influence in the White House over the back of his competitor, Karl Rove.
"Obviously, Card has chosen to pick this fight," Mr. Kreep said. "He wouldn't have done this without a political purpose. He must have decided Rove won't take him on. Or he has decided it's time for him to be either up or out."
But Mr. Keene said: "Andy Card gets hurt the most. The president demands a unified team when speaking to the outside world. The president does not like people on the inside talking to people on the outside about what goes on inside."
Internal disagreements over policy are commonplace in every administration, Mr. Keene said. "Most presidents like to hear diversity of opinion from their staff, and ultimately, a president chooses which advice to follow," he said.
"But Card makes it seem the president is just a straw blown about in the wind of his advisers' conflicting views," Mr. Keene said. "But from what I knew of Bush before he became president and what I know since he's been in the Oval Office, that's not how he works."
Republicans said they were surprised that the normally circumspect Mr. Card would make such candid comments.
"I've known Andy for more than 20 years, and it's very much out of character for him to say the things Esquire quotes him as saying," Mr. Keene said.
"I don't know that I've ever read a story shocked me more than this one," confided a Republican Party official. "I'm dumbfounded. I re-read it five minutes ago and I'm still in political shock."

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