WASHINGTON -- Andrew Card's public declaration that he might soon be leaving his post as White House chief-of-staff followed a private rebuke by President Bush in the presence of Republican congressional leaders.
The tension between the president and his usually careful chief-of-staff goes back to Card's appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" Oct. 28. Asked whether Bush would sign the Senate-passed bill federalizing airport security workers, Card replied: "I suspect that he wouldn't want to have to sign it, but he would."
A few days later, House GOP leaders told the president that Card's statement had undermined their fight against the Senate bill. According to sources, Bush pointed to his top staffer and said, in effect, that Card had changed the president's position. On Nov. 1, addressing the Boston Chamber of Commerce, Card said he did not expect to be in his job much longer.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who provides few details about U.S. combat operations in his official briefings, revealed to a private black-tie dinner last Tuesday that special operations troops were operating on horseback in Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld was the principal speaker at the annual dinner of the Center for Security Policy a few days after returning from his visit to Central Asia. He told the conservative audience that he had flown over the rugged terrain of Afghanistan, where U.S. troops were in combat -- riding horses.
Former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, accepting the center's annual award, expressed pleasure -- as a traditionalist -- that Rumsfeld had brought the "horse cavalry" back to the U.S. military.
President Bush hit a false note with some of his strongest congressional supporters, including Sen. Jesse Helms, when he named career diplomat James Dobbins as U.S. representative to the anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
Helms, senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, helped derail Bush's earlier selection of Dobbins as ambassador to the Philippines. But Dobbins is close to Secretary of State Colin Powell, who pushed him for the Afghanistan mission. Dobbins has been made a career minister, so that his appointment cannot be blocked by Congress.
Conservative criticism of Dobbins dates back to his 1995 testimony to the House International Relations Committee about Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Two senior Republican House members -- Ben Gilman of New York and Dan Burton of Indiana -- accused Dobbins of concealing the truth about the role of Aristide's death squads in the murder of opposition leader Mireille Durocher Bertin.
SOURED ON RIORDAN
The White House political operation, which earlier this year asked liberal Republican Richard Riordan to run for governor of California, has soured on the former Los Angeles mayor even though the polls show him running even with Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.
"Riordan is unfocused, unorganized and doesn't listen," one California GOP operative advised the White House. A major complaint is that Riordan ignores the Republican vote, which is a much more important factor statewide than in overwhelmingly Democratic Los Angeles. The last straw for Republican insiders was Riordan's insistence on hiring controversial Democratic consultant Clint Reilly.
The state's Republican establishment is also having second thoughts about Secretary of State Bill Jones, who was written off last year after he abandoned George W. Bush for Sen. John McCain in the California presidential primary. GOP insiders now think Jones might be a stronger candidate against Davis, but view his poorly financed candidacy as hopeless in a three-way Republican primary against Riordan and political neophyte William Simon Jr.
DOLLARS FOR JEB
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, running well ahead for re-election against former Attorney General Janet Reno, is planning to pluck the Washington lobbyist community for big bucks in a Nov. 28 fund-raiser.
The preliminary event is a $500-a-person "cocktail reception" at the Capitol Hilton Hotel. That will be followed by a $10,000-a-couple dinner in the hotel's presidential ballroom, which can accommodate over 600 people.
Big-time Washington lobbyists Wayne Berman and David Carmen head the list of dinner co-chairmen on the invitation mailed to the city's A-list of lobbyists.