Card Says Bush 'needed' Him To Leave White House

This story was written by Abe J. Riesman, Harvard Crimson
Former White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card, Jr. said for the first time Tuesday that he resigned from the Bush administration last year in part because "the president needed for me to leave, and the administration needed to have me leave."

"I think they needed to demonstrate change, and I don't think you can have a change without it being personified," Card said in an interview with The Crimson.

Card's remarks appear to contradict the official explanation given by President George W. Bush for Card's departure on March 28, 2006. When his chief of staff announced his resignation, Bush said that Card had taken the initiative to leave his post, and that the departure was not motivated by politics.

"Andy Card came to me and raised the possibility of stepping down as chief of staff," Bush said at the time. "After five-and-a-half years, he thought it might be time to return to private life."

However, Tuesday, Card said his resignation was not simply a matter of personal preference.

Card, who was in Cambridge for a dinner at the Institute of Politics, emphasized that he did not want to leave his post at the time.

"I miss it, I really miss the White House," he said. "Anybody who claims that they want to leave the White House is lying."

The White House did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Elaine C. Kamarck, a lecturer at the Kennedy School and a former advisor to Al Gore '69, called Card's statement "very honest."

"It's often the case that someone gets put off as the sacrificial lamb, when the president needs to show something, that he's taking action," she said.

When Card was ushered out and replaced by former presidential budget director Joshua B. Bolten, political analysts in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other national publications speculated that the administration might have been trying to signal that it was ready for fresh thinking about divisive issues, such as the conflict in Iraq.

"I'm not saying the people in America knew who Andy Card was, but I do think the people of America knew that there was a chief of staff, so if you change a chief of staff, you must be changing things," Card said.

INTERNAL AFFAIRS

Card also spoke Tuesday about his role in the controversial White House Iraq Group, a group of top policy advisors that he formed in 2002.

"There is so much more myth about [the White House Iraq Group] than there is reality," he said.

According to Card, the group's role was to present information to the public consistent with Bush's stance on Iraq by coordinating information between national security groups including the Department of Defense, the CIA, and the State Department.

"Doesn't it make sense to get together to say, 'Okay, let's not put press releases out on the same day that say things that aren't consistent with the direction that the president has said we're heading in? So let's coordinate it,'" he said of the group's rationale.

Card also said the group received incorrect intelligence information about what to expect in the wake of the invasion.

"We were told that there were going to be generals with whole armies that would wave the white flag and say, 'We're on your side' when we showed up -- that's what the intelligence had suggested," he said. "The white flags didn't show up, and the armies disappeared, and the generals went into hiding."

During Tuesday's interview, Card also spoke about his management of information within the White House, which he described as a constant balance of "need versus want."

"I wanted to make sure the president had all the information he needed, not necessarily all the nformation people wanted him to have," he said.

Card also recalled times when he had to refocus President Bush on political priorities.

"Like, if the Texas Rangers were in town to play the Baltimore Orioles or something, [the president would ask], 'Yeah, I'd love to see the Texas Rangers today. Can we get them in?'" said Card, imitating the president's manner of speech.

"I said, 'No, the schedule is jam-packed. You've got the president of Egypt, and the prime minister of this place, and six members of Congress,'" he recalled. "'I know you really want to do this, but you can't do it today.'"
© 2007 Harvard Crimson via U-WIRE
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