Andy Card Leaves a Stacked Deck

Card as legislator

hide captionCard, a Massachusetts Republican, started in the state legislature...

gov bid

hide caption ...and went on to lose a bid for governor, before hitching his horse to the Bush family.

Edwin Forsythe

hide captionTwenty-two years ago today, Rep. Edwin Forsythe, the senior Republican in New Jersey's congressional delegation, dies in office.

It made sense. President Bush's numbers are at their nadir. The war is, by most accounts, not going especially well. The deficit is out of control. The issue of homeland security blew up in the White House's face over the Dubai ports fiasco. And the Republican Party can't seem to come to terms about what to do about immigration.

Solution? Chief of Staff Andy Card had to go.

Actually, that's the way it works in Washington. The president has no policy disagreements with his secretaries of defense or state, and was not about to unload adviser Karl Rove, especially if no Plame-related indictment was coming. But with a growing chorus in the Republican Party demanding an Oval Office shakeup, somebody had to be thrown overboard, the somebody being Andy Card. Remember, it wasn't Yankees manager Yogi Berra's fault that Whitey Ford's arm was dead or that Roger Maris hit .200 in the 1964 World Series. But when you're supposed to beat the Cardinals and you don't, you can't dump your stars, so you dump the manager. (By the way, the official word from the White House is that Card was not fired, he resigned. And that may be what actually happened.)

Still, in fairness, the likeable and approachable Card was not entirely blameless in Bush's free fall. There was a clear political tone-deafness that came out of the White House, not only over the Dubai ports, but also of the disastrous Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination — two events that demoralized and angered conservatives. Not to mention the reaction to the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. If Andy Card was not responsible for the decisions, he should have anticipated the political fallout. He didn't, and now he's gone.

Bottom line: Will Bush's numbers now shoot back up? Will the war become more palatable? Will conservatives feel mollified? The answer to all three: of course not. Replacing Andy Card with White House Budget Director Josh Bolten is not going to make much of a difference. So while it does provide for a nice distraction, I'm not exactly sure what changes.

And as for Card, there are rumors that he will jump into the race for governor in Massachusetts, where incumbent Republican Mitt Romney is leaving after one term, and where Romney's lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey, is not doing so well as the presumptive GOP nominee to succeed him. My guess is that it doesn't happen; perhaps one reason the rumor has surfaced is that Card has previously talked of the governorship, and in fact ran once before, in 1982, finishing third in the GOP primary. (There's another scenario that has Card heading back to the Bay State to help with Romney's anticipated presidential candidacy.)

MEMORY LANE: The history of White House chiefs of staff is filled with successful and failed candidacies for office, both before and after their tenure in the administration. Here's the tally of COS candidates in the past half-century:

Sherman Adams (1953-58, under President Dwight Eisenhower)

BEFORE: Member of New Hampshire state legislature, 1941-44. Member of Congress, 1945-46. Lost 1946 Republican gubernatorial nomination. Governor, 1949-52.

Alexander Haig (1973-74, Richard Nixon)

AFTER: Sought Republican presidential nomination, 1988.

Donald Rumsfeld (1974-75, Gerald Ford)

BEFORE: Member of Congress from Illinois, 1963-69. Left Congress to become President Nixon's director of the Office of Economic Opportunity (1969-70); was U.S. ambassador to NATO (1973-74).

SINCE: Never ran for office again, but served as secretary of defense under President Ford (1975-77); returned to the cabinet as secretary of defense under the current President Bush (since 2001).

Dick Cheney (1975-77, Gerald Ford)

SINCE: Member of Congress from Wyoming, 1979-89. Left Congress to become President George H.W. Bush's secretary of defense (1989-93). Mentioned as a potential Republican presidential hopeful, 1996. Elected vice president in 2000, served in that capacity since 2001.

Hamilton Jordan (1979-80, Jimmy Carter)

SINCE: Lost 1986 Democratic Senate primary in Georgia to Wyche Fowler.

Jack Watson (1980-81, Jimmy Carter)

SINCE: Finished fourth in the 1982 Democratic gubernatorial primary in Georgia.

James Baker (1981-85, Ronald Reagan; 1992-93, George H.W. Bush)

BEFORE: Lost 1978 election for Texas state attorney general.

Howard Baker (1987-88, Ronald Reagan)

BEFORE: Lost 1964 Senate race in Tennessee to Ross Bass. Senator from Tennessee, 1967-84. Sought Republican presidential nomination, 1980.

AFTER: Never ran for office again, but served as the current President Bush's ambassador to Japan (2001-05).

John Sununu (1989-91, George H.W. Bush)

BEFORE: Lost 1980 Republican Senate primary in New Hampshire to Warren Rudman. Governor of New Hampshire, 1983-88.

Leon Panetta (1994-97, Bill Clinton)

BEFORE: Member of Congress from California, 1977-93. Left Congress to become President Clinton's budget director.

Erskine Bowles (1997-98, Bill Clinton)

AFTER: Lost 2002 Senate race in North Carolina to Elizabeth Dole. Lost 2004 Senate race to Richard Burr.

Andrew Card (2001-06, George W. Bush)

BEFORE: Massachusetts state representative, 1975-82. Lost 1982 GOP gubernatorial primary. Served the first President Bush as secretary of transportation (1992-93).

On to the questions…

Q: Isn't new House majority leader John Boehner (R-OH) one of Newt Gingrich's guys? How did his election become good news for the Republicans? — Rosemarie Bonacci, La Porte, Texas (just outside of Houston)

A: Simple. He was running against one of Tom DeLay's guys — Roy Blunt, the Missouri Republican and Majority Whip who was the acting majority leader in DeLay's absence following the Texan's indictment. Whatever bitter residue there may be among Republicans regarding Gingrich's reign (House minority whip 1989-94, speaker 1994-98), and Boehner's role in it, it pales with how many feel about DeLay. While DeLay was most effective in lining up votes and raising money (and redrawing congressional lines in Texas), once the Democrats began their crusade over the GOP's "culture of corruption," Republican lawmakers couldn't run fast enough away from DeLay — and that meant voting against his ally, Blunt.

Q: You were right, in your Feb. 16 column, about 1864 being the year when a winning presidential ticket (Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson) was comprised of candidates from two different parties. I tend to think that 1840 was also such a year. It seems pretty clear that John Tyler was really a Democrat, not a Whig, when he was picked for vice president. — Richard Winger, San Francisco, Calif.

A: Tyler was certainly a former Democrat when he was tapped in 1840 to be the running mate on the Whig ticket led by war hero William Henry Harrison. But he was no longer in the party, and in fact spent much of the year working on behalf of Harrison's rival for the Whig nomination, Sen. Henry Clay.

President Harrison died in office, a month into his term. From the get go, Tyler had serious difficulties with the Whig-led Congress. Clay, who was preparing another presidential bid, did everything he could to make life miserable for Tyler, his erstwhile ally. By the time of the 1844 Whig convention, delegates had long abandoned Tyler in favor of Clay. Then Tyler's allies tried to get him the Democratic nomination, but that party didn't want any part of him, either. Ultimately, Tyler gave up the idea of hanging on to the presidency and wound up backing the Democratic nominee, James K. Polk, who went on to defeat Clay.

And then there's this:

Q: I love reading your column; as a political junkie myself, I find it to be informative and fun. But I did find a mistake in your Feb. 16 discussion of the 1864 National Unity (Republican) ticket. Lincoln didn't actually choose Johnson. He was informed by telegram as to who his vice president would be. Doris Kearns Goodwin writes in her superb new book, Team of Rivals, that Lincoln, who faced some challengers for the nomination, was worried when the telegram arrived. (It said simply "Johnson nominated," or something of the sort.) He then realized that it was referring to the nomination of the VP. — Andrew Dobbs, Austin, Texas

Q: I really enjoy your on-air and online reports. How about a podcast, too? — Jennifer Potash, Trenton, N.J.

A: Actually, that is in the works as well. Ron Elving, NPR's senior Washington editor, and I have already done two pilot political podcasts. The first one ran 11 minutes, the second considerably longer. Two other NPR staffers, editor Beth Donovan and producer Muthoni Muturi, are working hard on making this happen. If you want my opinion, the ones we've done so far are brilliantly illuminating and hysterically funny. If you ask Ron, he will probably deny any knowledge of or involvement in this. To be continued.

THE 'LIBERAL' MEDIA: An aside from me in the Feb. 16 column discussing Dick Cheney got me in some trouble and deserves an explanation. I wrote, "The issue, in the eyes of Democrats and many in the media (I know, they are one and the same), is Dick Cheney's modus operandi of not feeling any need to explain his actions to or make himself accountable to the American people." That brought in a slew of incredulous e-mails, some in language not suitable to print here. The Democrats and the media, one and the same? Hello??

What happened is I was trying to be cutesy and it backfired. Often, especially during the Clinton administration, whenever I would write the words "the Democrats and the media," I would invariably receive responses saying in effect, "Oh, there's a difference?" So when I wrote it in the 2/16 column, I decided to head off those emails by adding, "I know, they are one and the same." It was a lame attempt at sarcasm and it didn't transfer well in cyberspace.

REMINDER: "Political Junkie" is featured every Wednesday on NPR's Talk of the Nation at 2:40 p.m. Eastern. This week's special guest: former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta.

This Day in Political History: Rep. Edwin Forsythe (R-NJ), a 13-year member of the House who served on the ethics committee, dies of cancer at the age of 68. He will be succeeded in November by James Saxton (R), who still serves (March 29, 1984).

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: politicaljunkie@npr.org

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