WASHINGTON: The resignation of White House press secretary Scott McClellan Wednesday morning has left DC observers wondering how and if the Bush administration will move to bolster its communications program.
McClellan's announcement has been widely anticipated since new chief of staff Joshua Bolten's first staff meeting on Monday, when he said that there would be internal changes forthcoming.
Former Clinton administration press secretary Mike McCurry, who now a principal in Public Strategies Group, told PRWeek that he thinks McClellan's replacement will likely be someone who already has Bush's trust.
"It's important for the president to have someone that's he's got a lot of confidence in, because this president is very peculiar about how he wants this job done," he said. "Every press secretary more or less reflects the temperament and the attitude of the president that he or she serves."
McCurry also said that the press secretary's role is rapidly becoming outdated, and called for the White House to incorporate more technology into the way it handles media relations.
"The current process of briefing and having one guy standing there at a podium is pretty antiquated," he said. "I hope that we really begin to rebuild the whole public information function inside the White House so that there's more access and more transparency. But that's not likely to happen with this administration."
One Republican insider within the communications industry said that the administration is "looking outside the inner circle," but that no decision has been made yet.
The names floated in the press as McClellan's possible replacement include former Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke; Fox News radio host Tony Snow; former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor; and former deputy White House press secretary Trent Duffy.
Jake Siewert, who was White House press secretary briefly during the Clinton administration and is now a VP at Alcoa, said McClellan was likely ground down by the rigors of the position.
"It's a brutal job at the best of times," he said. "It can be excruciatingly painful at a time when there's the kind of skepticism there is in the media that there is today about the administration and its candor."
Siewert urged the White House to open up to the media more.
"You can hire the best spokesperson in the world, but if you're not willing to rethink your approach to handling issues, then sooner or later they'll burn out too," he said.
Siewert also echoed McCurry's call for a greater commitment to cutting-edge communications tools by the White House, describing its current Web site as "very much canned, and not particularly useful or candid."