Bush To Stay The Course

In the wake of the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, White House insiders don't want to encourage expectations that President Bush will turn into a born-again accommodator in the final year and a half of his administration.

Their concern is that the mainstream media and many members of Congress will expect a more conciliatory president to emerge as more and more of his original loyalists from Texas leave the government. The insiders say that while Bush wants to score legislative victories before he leaves Washington, such as continued funding for the Iraq war and congressional approval for terrorist surveillance programs, he isn't going to give up on his principles. Bush advisers point out that while Bush has lost or is losing several of his most trusted confidants from his years as Texas governor, including Gonzales, political strategist Karl Rove, and counselor Dan Bartlett, he still has a strong team around him and isn't isolated, as his critics often suggest.

White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten retains a firm grip on internal deliberations and management, and new senior adviser Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is a welcome addition who has innumerable contacts throughout the political, media, and lobbying worlds of Washington.

A senior White House strategist told U.S. News that Bush's priorities remain the same--fight for his policies in Iraq and block what he considers profligate spending by the Democratic majority on appropriations bills. "September will be all about Iraq, and October will be all about the budget," the strategist says.

By Kenneth T. Walsh