Scott McClellan Resigns, Rove Stripped of Policy Role

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan has resigned.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove is giving up his policy portfolio and press secretary Scott McClellan is resigning, continuing a shakeup in President Bush’s administration that has already yielded a new chief of staff. A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the president had not yet made the announcement, said Wednesday that Rove is giving up oversight of policy development to focus more on politics with the approach of the fall midterm elections.

Just over a year ago, Rove was promoted to deputy chief of staff in charge of most White House policy coordination. That new portfolio came on top of his title as senior adviser and role of chief policy aide to Bush. But now, the job of deputy chief of staff for policy is being given to Joel Kaplan, now the White House’s deputy budget director, said the official.

The move signals a possibly broad effort to rearrange and reinvigorate Bush’s staff by new chief of staff Joshua Bolten. Bolten moved into his position last week; Kaplan was his No. 2 person at the Office of Management and Budget. At least for the time being, the promotion of Kaplan would leave Bush with three deputy chiefs of staff: Rove, Kaplan and Joe Hagin, who oversees administrative matters, intelligence and other national security issues.

Appearing with Bush on the South Lawn, McClellan, who has parried especially fiercely with reporters on Iraq and on intelligence issues, told Bush: “I have given it my all sir and I have given you my all sir, and I will continue to do so as we transition to a new press secretary.”

Bush said McClellan had “a challenging assignment.” “I thought he handled his assignment with class, integrity,” the president said. “It’s going to be hard to replace Scott, but nevertheless he made the decision and I accepted it. One of these days, he and I are going to be rocking in chairs in Texas and talking about the good old days.” McClellan was named press secretary in June 2003, not long after the United States invaded Iraq and had first been a deputy to Ari Fleischer in the job — a White House position with daily visibility rivaling virtually everyone there except the president.

The Rove move will get the most attention, given his perceived status as the president’s number one advisor. How much different it will make on a substantive level remains to be seen.

Replacing McClellan will probably not make that much difference, as the public is only vaguely aware of him. He has to be exhausted, though, given nearly three years of the daily grind that goes with the job, especially in the current environment.

Update: Fox is reporting that Tony Snow is on the short list to replace McClellan:

One of the people the White House has approached as a possible replacement for McClellan is FOX News Radio host Tony Snow. The White House discussed the possibility with Snow as recently as this week. Snow, who hosts “The Tony Snow Show,” once served as a speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush.

Other people have also been approached about the position, including former Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clark and Dan Senor, the former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman in Iraq, who served the U.S. civil administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer.

Snow would be a terrific choice but, frankly, I don’t know why he would want the job. It would seem a step back for him professionally and, certainly be a lot more aggravation and a lot less fun that hosting his own show.

Hat tip: Musing Minds

[Update 2: Michelle Malkin discovered “buzz” on the story earlier this morning at Freep.]

Clark, longtime readers might recall, was the subject of one of the early OTB Caption ContestsTM when she showed up at a press conference wearing this:

Victoria Clark Photo

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. legion says:

    Replacing Scotty doesn’t really mean squat. I suspect the only reason it didn’t happen long ago is the difficulty in finding someone willing to take that kind of abuse…

    As for Karl, it’s a big question mark – does this mean he’s on the outs with Bush, or does it mean he’s expecting enough trouble in the mid-term elections that he needs to devote more thought to strategy?

  2. McGehee says:

    I’m not sure Rove’s policy input has been exactly sparkling.

  3. ICallMasICM says:

    I think replacing McClellan is long overdue. He is one of the primary spokesman for the admin and he wasn’t effective or persuasive. When you constantly hear that the admin isn’t getting their message out then he’s not doing his job. To me he always seemed like the interim guy filling in and taking a beating until they got a real replacement.

  4. Bhoe says:

    I think replacing McClellan is long overdue. He is one of the primary spokesman for the admin and he wasn�t effective or persuasive. When you constantly hear that the admin isn�t getting their message out then he�s not doing his job. To me he always seemed like the interim guy filling in and taking a beating until they got a real replacement.

    Don’t get me wrong, McClellan is a scoundrel and a prevaricator–anyone with a shred of self-respect would have been out of there years ago.

    But, to be honest, Bush and Cheney haven’t given him much to work with. It is hard to get your “message out” when the policies are disastrous, contradictory, and ineffectual.

  5. anjin-san says:

    Interesting that “The Decider” thinks he will be looking back on an era that includes thousands of dead GI’s as “the good old days”.

  6. James Joyner says:

    I dunno, we look back on WWII, where we lost more people in the first hour of D-Day than the entirety of the Iraq War, as “The Good War.”

  7. Roger says:

    McClellan had no credibility left. Snow would come in with none, so that won’t happen. Instead, someone who can appear professional but whom the public won’t know will be chosen. That way it will take a few weeks before, again, they have no credibility as they continue to spin the Bushco lies.

    The Rove change means nothing. Just a scintilla of cover or distance for when Fitzgerald drops the other shoe.