Washington, Oct. 30 (Reuters): US President George W. Bush, whose top adviser Karl Rove remains in jeopardy in a CIA-leak probe, needs to shake up his White House staff if he hopes to revive a presidency reeling from multiple setbacks, Republican and Democratic lawmakers said today.
The lawmakers also urged Bush to investigate the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney, whose chief of staff, Lewis Libby, resigned on Friday and was indicted on perjury and other charges in connection with the probe. Bush should take Cheney “to the woodshed” if necessary, one lawmaker said.
“You should always be looking for... new blood, new energy, qualified staff, new people in administration. I’m not talking about wholesale changes, but you’ve got to reach out and bring in more advice and counsel,” senator Trent Lott, a Mississippi republican, said on Fox News Sunday.
Lott said he expected Bush to address his problems. “I think he is a man that knows when there’s a time to make moves and take actions. He will do that.”
Rove remains under investigation in the probe into who leaked the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose diplomat husband is a prominent Iraq-war critic. The White House’s credibility has been hurt by disclosures that both Rove and Libby leaked the woman’s identity, despite earlier official denials attributed to the two men.
Although Rove has been the chief architect of Bush’s political career, lawmakers questioned whether he has become an obstacle to Bush’s recovery from problems including public opposition to the Iraq war, a botched response to Hurricane Katrina and the withdrawal of Harriet Miers’ nomination to the US Supreme Court under fire from the right and left.
“(Although) there’s no existing evidence here that Karl Rove is about to be indicted... the President has to make a determination as to whether or not he wants to be preoccupied with legal issues around the White House,” Democratic senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut said on Fox News.
Lott raised similar concerns but said any decision should be left to Rove.
“If he has a problem, I think he’s got to step up and... acknowledge that and deal with it,” Lott said. “If he’s not going to be indicted... then, you know, his view of what he does is very different,” he said.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, in an appearance on ABC’s This Week, previewed the potential for Rove to become a political lightning-rod for Bush.
“The President, I guess, is still being driven by Karl Rove,” Reid told ABC. “He’s still around. He should be let go,” Reid said on CNN's Late Edition.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan, asked about Rove’s status on Friday, said he still works at the White House but declined to discuss any conversations with Bush.