Whose Country Is It, Anyway?

Like we didn’t know.

Senior Shiite politicians said today that the American ambassador has told Shiite officials to inform the Iraqi prime minister that President Bush does not want him to remain the country’s leader in the next government. …

… Ambassador Khalilzad said that President Bush “doesn’t want, doesn’t support, doesn’t accept” Mr. Jaafari to be the next prime minister, according to Mr. Taki, a senior aide to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Shiite bloc. It was the first “clear and direct message” from the Americans on the issue of the candidate for prime minister, Mr. Taki said.

Didn’t the Iraqis have an election? Isn’t it their government? Isn’t … never mind. Sorry I asked.

Junk Intelligence Update

Don’t miss these two articles in today’s New York Times — “Iraqi Documents Are Put on Web, and Search Is On” by Scott Shane and “Enemy of Our Enemy” by Peter Bergen. Both articles touch on the John Negroponte document dump in which righties found proof of WMDs and a Saddam-al Qaeda connection, in spite of the fact that none of the documents has proved any such thing.

Condensed version of the articles: Nothin’ there. The “Enemy of My Enemy” is particularly interesting, because it makes a pretty solid case that Saddam Hussein wasn’t even close to working with al Qaeda.

I had some more to write about the document dump, but Steve M. wrote it already. So go there. Also see Tbogg and Tristero.

Andy Card Is Free!

Card is resigning, effective April 14. The new chief of staff will be Joshua B. Bolten, currently the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

I’m glad that Andy Card is gettin’ off the plantation before he drops dead. According to the WaPo story linked above, Card has been asking to be let go since earlier this month. I guess he finally talked Massa into it.

About Josh Bolten — Chris Suellentrop wrote this in Slate in November 2001 —

Josh Bolten is the White House’s deputy chief of staff for policy. That makes him the president’s chief domestic policy adviser, and since Sept. 11 he has headed the White House’s new “domestic consequences group” that has developed post-attack legislation such as the airline bailout and the stimulus package. The New Republic‘s Ryan Lizza calls him “increasingly powerful” and “the anonymous fourth man in the inner circle of Bush’s staff” (after Andy Card, Karl Rove, and Karen Hughes). U.S. News says he has emerged after the terrorist attacks as Bush’s “chief economic architect,” and the Washington Post says Bolten “has a quiet hand in all domestic policy and international economic policy.”

During the 2000 campaign, Bolten was Bush’s policy director, and during the Florida recount he was a top lieutenant to James Baker. He worked as a lawyer in the Reagan administration’s State Department, and he served as a staff attorney for the Senate Finance Committee from 1985 to 1989. In the first Bush administration, he worked as general counsel for the U.S. trade representative and as the White House’s deputy assistant for legislative affairs.

He’s a long-time Bush operative, in other words.

More from Christy Hardin Smith at firedoglake. There are reports that Andy submitted his resignation three weeks ago, but Bush didn’t accept it until this weekend, when Card threatened to dance around buck naked on top of the Lincoln memorial screaming IMPEACH BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.

OK, I made that last part up. However, one of the terms of Andy’s retirement is that he has to allow the Bushies to be keep one of his kids hostage in the White House basement (along with John McCain’s favorite uncle) as insurance that Andy won’t talk.

Josh Bolten, CHS says, has been with Bush since Texas and is a close friend of Karl Rove.

There is speculation that Card’s resignation may be the beginning of other staff changes. I’m saying probably not. My reading of the situation is that this resignation was Card’s idea — it is widely reported that he is beyond burned out. Bolten was already a long-time Bush team member, so his presence in the White House won’t pierce the bubble. In a few weeks it will be remarked that no one can tell any difference in how the White House operates. Because there won’t be.

Update: See Stirling Newberry.

Update update:
More from Dan Froomkin:

Sacrificing Andy Card, his longtime chief of staff, is President Bush’s way of responding to the growing complaints about the administration’s competence.

The botched response to Hurricane Katrina, the deteriorating situation in Iraq, the rocky relations with the Republican Congress — all of these are seen at least in part as failures of execution. And execution is the chief of staff’s job.

But Card’s departure in no way addresses the two even more fundamental areas where Bush is vulnerable: His decisions and his credibility.

In most White Houses, the chief of staff is a godlike figure, putting his stamp on the presidency in almost every conceivable way. But in the Bush White House, political guru Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney loom much larger and have way more to do with what the president says and does than Card ever did. As long as they stay put, the rest may largely be window dressing.

Card was extremely popular with his staff and oversaw the most buttoned-down, leak-proof, on-time, on-message White House in history. But he was not a big influence on Bush. He was more like Bush’s nanny.