Josh Bolten may actually be a step down from Andy Card

Tuesday, March 28, 2006 at 05:36 PM

Today's announcement (preceded by the RNC's distribution of talking points: Card "was not fired") that Josh Bolten is moving from Director of OMB to replace Andy Card as White House Chief of Staff seems eerily like John Boehner replacing Tom DeLay.  There's a nanosecond of relief followed by a million seconds of "uh oh."

So Bolten (it is BoltEn, not BoltOn as some sources have it) supposedly has a terrific sense of humor, has contacts in congress, and is a hell of a bowler who supposedly pulled a 200+ game on the president himself.  Great.

But, first of all, his general outlook on issues and willingness to do the Bushster's bidding will differ not a whit from Mr. Card.  As Chuck Shumer's sound bite put it, the shuffle amounts to "simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."  The policy is the same, the personality and viewpoint at the top (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld) remains the same, and those are the problem.

And Bolten proved he can be Bush when need be.  According to Dissident Voice, in 2002:

...Josh Bolton, US Under Secretary of State, gave a speech before the rabid rightwing Heritage Foundation entitled "Beyond the Axis of Evil." In the speech, Bolton designated Cuba, Libya and Syria as "rogue states," in other words states facing possible military action. Bolton went so far as to say "Cuba's threat to our security has often been underplayed," stopping an inch short of claiming Castro plans to attack Florida with biological weapons.

Then there's Mr. Bolten himself, who often sounds like Scott McClellan on uppers. Last year the Washington Post did a story on the White House's rather bizarre and inconsistent budget projections by who else but good old Josh.  The story included this snippet:

The spending plan Bolten outlined was a model of fiscal responsibility. But as he fielded questions for an hour, it became steadily clearer why the new budget seemed so restrained: The White House left out a lot of expenses the government is likely to have, while including savings the government is unlikely ever to see.

For example, Bolten granted that it is certain that more money will be needed for Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006 and beyond. "But," he added, "it wouldn't be responsible for us to take a guess at what those costs are."

Yet, moments later, Bolten explained why it was perfectly responsible to guess about new revenue from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- even though such a program has not been approved by Congress. "Well," he said, "the budget is the right place to present the entirety of the president's policies, so all of his proposals are reflected in there."

The theme repeated itself throughout Bolten's briefing: Potential good news was embraced, and potential bad news was left out of the equation. How about the hundreds of billions of dollars the government would borrow to convert Social Security to personal accounts under Bush's plan? Not included. "The budget went to bed . . . before the president's proposals were announced," Bolten explained.

Sounds like Mr. Bolten knew Ken Lay real well.  Or at least Kenny Boy's pet theories of accounting.

Just last month Bolten appeared on CNN's The Situation Room to repeat once again the Bush mantra about the fairness and effectiveness of the tax cuts.  Trying to refute John Kerry's claim that "the president is cutting money for veterans, child support enforcement, Medicare, student loans, food stamps so he can cling to deficit exploding, wasteful tax police without giving one dime in tax relief to the 19 million middle class families who will pay higher taxes next year," Bolten responded:

Boy, he's wrong on every single one of those counts. I'm not sure where to begin, but the first place to start is that the tax relief that the president and the Congress as enacted is broad-based, goes to the entire population and has lowered the tax rate for everybody, including the middle class, and in fact, especially the middle class who now pay a lower proportion of our income taxes than do people in the upper income brackets.

Much more important than that is that what the tax cuts have done is that they have set off substantial growth in our economy. That's the most important thing for the country's fiscal health.

Remember the little incident where the White House insisted that the cost of the Medicare prescription drug plan would be "only" $400 billion, and prevented the top actuary at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from telling congress that his best estimate was $150 billion higher than that, only to have an administration official come out about a month after the president signed the law and admit that the cost really would would be $540 billion?  The "official" was Mr. Bolten, who as budget director, surely knew all along that the higher figure was by far the more realistic estimate. Note in furtherance of full & shocking disclosure: the administration later acknowledged that the actual cost of the plan was $1.2 trillion over the next decade.

He's a loyal Bushite for sure.  But that doesn't make you nice, or even palatable to the Bushster's friends.  Else why would Mr. Bolten have once been named by Forbes Magazine as its "Dunce of the Week" for his role in the Katrina emergency relief funding bill?

He reportedly was a key architect of George W. Bush's 2000  campaign, including what many Republicans consider a "double-cross" in which Bolton, as Bush's policy director, assured congressional Republicans that Bush had no objections to the House's plans for the earned income credit, only to have Bush later accuse the Repubs of trying to "balance their budget on the backs of the poor."

Ralph Nader, in a letter to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels  noted that Josh Bolton (who had replaced  Daniels as the of Director of the Office of Management and Budget) "has refused to further your excellent recommendations on federal government contract transparency, software purchasing to break up the Microsoft monopoly, and a cost-benefit standard for the massive Homeland Security expenditures."  Nader also referred to Bolton as "the Inaccessible Man."

Bolten has also been described as "genetically predisposed to silence" and one of the closed-lips defendants named in the Dick Cheney secret energy task force lawsuit, filed by Judicial Watch.

So, there you have some picture of the new Chief of Staff.

"Meet the new boss.  Maybe worse than the old boss."

We need a new saying, and I just happen to have one: