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Political Week in Review: A White House Shakeup

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Political Week in Review: A White House Shakeup

Political Week in Review: A White House Shakeup

Political Week in Review: A White House Shakeup

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Alex Chadwick speaks with NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams about the week's events in the nation's capital — what President Bush accomplished during the Chinese president's visit, the White House staff shakeup and what's ahead for Congress when members return next week after a two-week recess.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

And now for a reaction in Washington, to the Hu visit and other news of the week, we're joined by NPR's senior correspondent Juan Williams. Juan, welcome back.

JUAN WILLIAMS reporting:

Always good to be with you, Alex.

CHADWICK: You know, here's the dilemma for the White House. You just heard Simon's views from Beijing. How should -- how would a Washington insider want to pitch this? Well, we did that on purpose or we're bumblers?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, it's sensitive in the sense that even yesterday there was talk around Washington about why the President apologized to President Hu in this way. Why should he apologize for this protestor? It wasn't under his control, it wasn't intentional. And remember that the woman was complaining about people being killed and oppressed. And the whole idea is that the U.S. should, sort of, fly the flag of democracy and free speech. So there was a little bit of that and it was coming from the Right.

So that's the Right Wing, the conservative part of the President's base, that was concerned about this, not coming from the Left. And so I was taken aback by that, because I didn't anticipate that people would be sensitive to the idea that he had been making apologies. So it was a big surprise to me.

CHADWICK: This is the Falun Gong demonstrator who was on the grounds of the White House, an accredited, she had a press accreditation to be there, and caused this incident to go on, where she heckled Mr. Hu.

WILLIAMS: Exactly. And then afterwards, as the President went in, made a point of apologizing. And during President Hu's remarks, he said to the President it's okay in a muted voice. You know, it's okay. Go ahead.

CHADWICK: Uh-huh.

WILLIAMS: Continue speaking, because the woman continued to shout for several minutes, Alex...

CHADWICK: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: ...until the Secret Service finally dealt with it. Somebody joked it seemed as if their strategy was to wait until she got too hoarse to continue.

CHADWICK: Mr. Bush characterized the visit from Mr. Hu as candid and honest. That's how he described those conversations. Those aren't actually good words for a diplomatic conversation.

WILLIAMS: Well, that's probably right. I mean, what he said was something about the countries, China and the U.S., now set to deepen our cooperation in addressing threats to global security, nuclear ambitions, violence by terrorists, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It was a laundry list. And essentially, that's what they went into the meeting with.

And I must say, you must remember, these guys, Alex, have met now five times in the past year. So it's not as if they don't know each other. And initially, the thought was they're of the same generation, President Hu is not an ideologue, as some would have described Deng Xiaoping or Jiang Zamin, his predecessors. So the thought was these guys are going to really be able to interact.

But in terms of getting anything done, they haven't done it. And high on the President's list of trying to get things done, of course, is lessening U.S. trade deficit by getting China to reduce or allow the value of its currency to increase, so that American imports and American and Chinese exports could be somewhat more balanced.

CHADWICK: How about other news out of the White House this week? Just the personnel changes there: Scott McClelland out as press secretary, Karl Rove kind of downgraded a little bit from his policy role. What does this mean about the new chief of staff, Josh Bolton?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, it's a surprise to me, Alex, and I think to many people who've been watching this White House, because they've been so slow to change, so slow to respond to the calls for change coming even from Republicans, but certainly from the nation as a whole, or to respond to the fact that the President's poll numbers are so low, or to discomfort on the part of even the President's most intimate supporters, people inside the White House who are worried about the path of the war in Iraq and whether or not that's just dragging down this second term to the point that there is no rescue.

So now it seems as if Josh Bolton really is about making some change. I think the biggest indicator was what people are saying is the demotion of Karl Rove from his influence as deputy chief of staff with a hand over all policy operations, now going back to focusing on politics as the midterm election approach. That kind of move by Bolton I think was a surprise, because he use to work for Karl Rove and the thought was initially that this would mean that Karl Rove was in ascendancy and have more influence over the President and policy. But now, as we see, that's not true.

And this morning the New York Times reports that another Texan, Harriet Miers, the President's counsel, may be on the way out as well.

CHADWICK: We'll follow that story. NPR's senior correspondent Juan Williams with us again.

Thank you, Juan.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Alex.

CHADWICK: And you're listening to NPR's DAY TO DAY.

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