Rove's bed is not even cold and already Ed Gillespie is crawling into it.
White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten has said that he plans to divide Rove's broad political and policymaking duties -- and the 60 or so White House staffers who report to him -- among several top aides. But Bolten has yet to decide how to distribute Rove's responsibilities.
Still, it appears that Gillespie will emerge as the first among equals. He is likely to be called on to handle political strategy and message management for the president, becoming the dominant voice in determining where and how often Bush appears and what he says during the final 17 months of his tenure.
Well, that's might curious. After all, this is the second "irreplaceable" long-time Bush associate that Gillespie is replacing; Gillespie took over Dan Bartlett's duties after Bartlett unexpectedly left. That's a whole lot of irreplaceable that Gillespie has replaced.
Which leads me to ask, once again, why Gillespie?
The news reports rehearse several aspects of Gillespie's experience: head of communications for the 2000 recount, support for the Roberts and Alito nomination battles, lie and forgetfulness coach for Alberto Gonzales' appearance before Congress.
Somehow, though, news reports always miss one of the most important things Gillespie has done for the Bush Administration: overseeing the New Hampshire phone-jamming damage control.
Why bring back a guy who, when the Republicans were about to get caught for illegally tampering with an election, played the fix-it and firewall role perfectly (well, kinda). I'm speaking, of course, about the New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal, in which Gillespie took all responsibility for the decision to pay James Tobin's legal bills, even though it's fairly clear the White House (the same White House that Tobin had called repeatedly during his phone-jamming operation) bought off on the decision too.
Which all suggests a guy like Gillespie could come in handy again, now that the Judiciary investigations have nowhere else to go but to Karl Rove, Scott Jennings, the recently-departed Sara Taylor, and the long-departed Harriet Miers (presumably some of the same folks who signed off on paying Tobin's legal bills). After all, it's just about the same kind of issue, right? Trying to explain away the calls people like Pat Rogers or Allen Weh made to the White House to fire USAs because they wouldn't tamper with elections? Trying to explain away the increasingly apparent plan to use the Justice Department to interfere with elections? It will all seem so familiar to Gillespie.
Particularly given the multiple possibilities that Rove left three steps ahead of the sheriff, I think Gillespie's past work for the Administration may come in very handy.
In the meantime, the WaPo report on this appears to reveal that Gillespie was responsible for the Administration's latest bit of selective declassification.
One change prompted by Gillespie is for Bush to offer more specifics when he talks about the biggest issue of his presidency: Iraq.
A speech that Bush delivered in Charleston, S.C., last month, in which he declassified some judgments made in intelligence reports to argue that the group al-Qaeda in Iraq was the same as the larger al-Qaeda network, was part of that effort. Broader speeches diluted Bush's message, Gillespie and other aides concluded. By focusing speeches on a single argument, such as al-Qaeda's connections in Iraq, aides hope to sharpen the president's influence on the public debate. [my emphasis]
That's nice. Just what we need. Another guy selectively declassifying just the information that'll make good propaganda.