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Rhonda Chriss Lokeman

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The price of loyalty in the Bush II White House is astronomical. Smart, dedicated people, some who had served presidents and held other government posts, inevitably become playthings for a president with the world as his sandbox.

For President Bush it was fun. For the staff it was exhaustive work to keep him informed and entertained.

A weight seemed to lift off Andy Card’s shoulders when the president announced Card’s resignation and Josh Bolten as his “replacement.”

Card did what most of them did in that sandbox. When the dullard son of a powerful daddy told them to jump, they asked, “How high?”

The price of loyalty in the Bush II White House is one’s dignity and reputation. With friends like Bush-Cheney, who needs enemies? Just ask Richard Clarke or Paul O’Neill or Christie Todd Whitman or Colin Powell, etc.

This administration’s voracious appetite for mindlessly cannibalizing its friends is astounding. Many of the loyalists so disposed have been Republicans faithful to the president, if not his beliefs. Now there’s Andy Card.

There are horse whisperers and dog whisperers. Andy Card was a president whisperer. Sept. 11, 2001, Card whispered into the president’s ear to interrupt a meeting with schoolchildren.

Card says that he told Bush that a second plane had struck the World Trade Center. Bush didn’t react for seven minutes, and the Secret Service didn’t immediately whisk him to safety.

Card said Bush didn’t react quicker because he “didn’t want to introduce fear into any of these young children or through the national media, to the American people.” It’s a wonderful fairy tale.

Card is the go-to guy. He’s the one you go to when you want to get to the president. He was also Karl Rove’s boss, although Rove’s influence exceeded Card’s.

Ironically, Bush’s chief of staff was an outsider, a moderate Republican from Massachusetts who was pro-choice and the husband of a minister. But he was handpicked by the first Bush for the job. When Card says he served at the pleasure of the president, he really means the father, not the son.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s bruises are evident. He rightly gets roughed up at press briefings. But Card’s scars are hidden. The press is kind to him, but the White House hasn’t always been. He refereed sparring between Karen Hughes, who sought to promote a kinder-gentler president, and Rove, who wanted a raw-meat kind of guy.

Card is leaving just as Patrick Fitzgerald’s Plamegate probe is going into hyper drive and the White House is mired in scandal and disarray. Both the president and vice president lost their chiefs of staff in the second term. At least Card left under better circumstances than Scooter Libby, caught in Fitzgerald’s grand jury probe.

But just because he will soon be out of the White House doesn’t necessarily mean Card is out of hot water.

We already know that Antonio Gonzales, then-White House counsel, contended that he told Card about the pending Justice Department probe of Plamegate. There was at least a 12-hour delay before White House staffers were told they should “preserve all materials” pertinent to the investigation. If Enron or WorldCom had this kind of advance notice, the shredders would have worked overtime.

Card doesn’t seem the type to write a tell-all book, like Clarke, or tell-some book like Whitman. He’s less likely to have someone write for him, as O’Neill did through journalist/author Ron Suskind. It was Suskind whom Card said had misrepresented him in an infamous 2002 Esquire article on Hughes’ departure from the White House.

Suskind wrote that Card thought Bush looked on us as 10-year-olds needing his fatherly protection. As chief of staff, Card was nanny to our Daddy Dearest.

“The president has to have time to eat, sleep and be merry, or he’ll make angry, grumpy decisions,” Card said in a radio interview. “So I have to make sure he has time to eat, sleep and be merry. But I also have to make sure he has the right time to do the right thing for the country and that he gets the right information in time, rather than too late.”

Information about terror strikes, Hurricane Katrina and Dubai port deals come to mind.

The price of a good cheeseburger: $3. The value of Card’s loyalty and insight: priceless.

Rhonda Chriss Lokeman

Kansas City Star

KRT

northerner@nku.edu

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
Keep your friends close