Shakeup Urged For Bush Staff

President Bush left, with Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., delivers his remarks at a celebration of the Hungarian contributions to global democracy and the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian revolution, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, March 15, 2006, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) AP Photo

A former high-ranking Republican has made calls to the White House, urging President Bush's chief of staff to hire a new adviser, CBS News has learned.

Former Senate majority leader Howard Baker phoned the White House Tuesday and sent a direct message to chief of staff Andrew Card, reports CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger.

Baker's mission: to get Card to hire former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson, now an actor who appears on the TV series "Law And Order," as a top adviser as a way to inject some "new blood" to the mix. Baker, also a former Tennessee senator, tells CBS, "I did not recommend firing anyone, just adding a new face."

Baker is not new to crisis management at the White House. In 1987, he was brought in by Ronald Reagan as chief of staff to restore order after the Iran-Contra scandal.

Mr. Bush's job approval remains at an all-time low of 34 percent in the latest CBS News poll. Sixty-six percent of Americans say the country is on the wrong track, a five-point jump since January. His own Republicans on Capitol Hill have been in open revolt over issues ranging from Katrina to the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination to the Dubai ports controversy.

But Borger tells The Early Show's Harry Smith that Baker's suggestion was passed on to the president who said, in effect, thanks very much for the advice, but we are not taking it.

On Wednesday, The White House dismissed reports that its senior staff is tired and that some Republicans believe changes are in order, CBS News correspondent Peter Maer reports.

Mr. Bush's spokesman defended the White House staff as "a smart, capable and experienced team" in the face of rising complaints from Republicans about administration mistakes.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said he was "tired of some of the questions" about whether Mr. Bush is going to replace some senior advisers. "The president has a great team and he appreciates the job that they're doing," McClellan said.

That doesn't stop this Baker's phone call from seeming like a catalyst in a quiet storm of Internet rumblings. Borger said on The Early Show that conservatives might be hushed about the possibility of a shakeup, but they are saying "something's got to happen here."

Republicans are nervous about Mr. Bush's declining approval ratings and a string of White House woes. They include the administration's fumbled handling of Hurricane Katrina; an uproar over a secret eavesdropping program; unhappiness about Iraq; opposition to the now-abandoned Dubai ports deal; the failed nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, and Bush's failure to achieve the centerpiece of his domestic agenda, an overhaul of Social Security.

  • Joel Roberts

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