Robert Novak

Bush's inner circle has been advised by outsiders that Snow's successor should have clear responsibility for the economy and be able to deal with both Wall Street and Capitol Hill. He should be able to confront the dollar problem and the Treasury's present state of disorganization.

It was recommended that the new secretary get the same broad mandate enjoyed by George Shultz under President Nixon and Robert Rubin under President Clinton.

Bush also has to figure out what to do with the post of national economic director, created by Clinton to find a place for Rubin in 1993, when Sen. Lloyd Bentsen took the Treasury portfolio. When Rubin succeeded Bentsen in 1995, he was replaced by former aide Gene Sperling, who posed no threat to his old boss.

Bush kept this position in 2001, mainly to have a job for campaign economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey. When Lindsey's loyalty and enthusiasm were rewarded with a pink slip, Bush picked Wall Streeter Stephen Friedman (Rubin's former partner). Friedman resigned last week, after two years of invisibility. The president could consider abolishing this job as a fifth wheel.

To replace Snow, Bush might consider impressive possibilities overlooked two years ago: former Sen. Phil Gramm, now an investment banker; publisher Steve Forbes; California investment banker Gerald Parsky, a former assistant treasury secretary.

Sources close to the president say Gramm was getting a good look this time. Parsky was spotted recently leaving Vice President Cheney's office. There is no sign that Forbes, a natural for the job, was being considered.

The word is out, however, that the president -- or at least Chief of Staff Andrew Card -- does not want anybody in this important Cabinet post with an independent power base. If so, the job description would be for somebody to steadfastly promote previously devised policies. In that case, why not keep John Snow, instead of torturing him? That is Bush's decision, at least for now.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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