Bush should look beyond inner circle for press chief

The news of new White House chief of staff Josh Bolten's directive to staffers last week that personnel change is on the way was met with a sigh of relief from many Washington insiders, as well as rampant speculation about who would soon be struck with the urge to "spend more time with my family."

The news of new White House chief of staff Josh Bolten's directive to staffers last week that personnel change is on the way was met with a sigh of relief from many Washington insiders, as well as rampant speculation about who would soon be struck with the urge to "spend more time with my family."

The first one sent packing was Scott McClellan, who was the White House press secretary for more than two years. The young Bush loyalist earned a reputation for such determined blandness that one profiler said he made his predecessor, professional blank slate Ari Fleischer, "sound like a gangsta rapper."

At this stage of President Bush's administration, it's time to hand communications over to - gasp - the best available candidate. As the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Harriet Miers so amply proved, the practice of handing out jobs to the nearest Bush friend does not always work out. And McClellan, despite his basic competency at deflecting questions, was ultimately another Texas pal who rode the President's campaign into Washington.

The Bush White House has gained some short-term political success by marginalizing the national media and keeping its message tightly controlled. But Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq, and even Dick Cheney's hunting mishap illustrate the fact that the press' demise has been greatly exaggerated. Bolten should realize what an impact the press secretary role has on the public perception of America's government.

Karen Hughes' struggles as public diplomacy head should prompt the White House to look outside its own borders for PR talent. One DC Republican communications veteran said the administration could use more "moxie" than McClellan offered; unfortunately, he added, "I wouldn't look for such a huge change that it alters the relationship between the White House and the press."

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