Sunday, October 30, 2005

Calls for White House shakeup focus on Karl Rove


Calls for White House shakeup focus on Karl Rove

By Randall Mikkelsen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush, whose top adviser Karl Rove remains in jeopardy in a CIA-leak probe, needs to shake up his White House staff if he hopes to revive a presidency reeling from multiple setbacks, Republican and Democratic lawmakers said on Sunday.

The lawmakers also urged Bush to investigate the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, whose chief of staff, Lewis Libby, resigned on Friday and was indicted on perjury and other charges in connection with the probe.

Bush should take Cheney "to the woodshed" if necessary, a Democratic lawmaker said, and the Senate's top Democrat said Rove should be fired or quit.

"I think Karl Rove should step down," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said on ABC's "This Week."

Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott said the Bush administration needed "new blood, new energy, qualified staff," and that he expected the president to address his problems.

"I'm not talking about wholesale changes, but you've got to reach out and bring in more advice and counsel," Lott said on "Fox News Sunday."

Rove remains under investigation in the probe into who leaked the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose diplomat husband is a prominent Iraq war critic. The White House's credibility has been hurt by disclosures that Rove and Libby leaked Plame's identity, despite earlier official denials attributed to the two men.

Reid said Bush and Cheney owed the public an apology. "They should come clean with the American public," he said on ABC.

Rove has been the chief architect of Bush's political career. However, lawmakers questioned whether he is an obstacle to Bush's recovery from problems including growing public opposition to the Iraq war, a botched response to Hurricane Katrina and the withdrawal of Harriet Miers' nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court under fire from both parties.

"(Although) there's no existing evidence here that Karl Rove is about to be indicted ... the president has to make a determination as to whether or not he wants to be preoccupied with legal issues around the White House," Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut said on "Fox News Sunday."


Lott raised similar concerns but said any decision should be left to Rove.

"If he has a problem, I think he's got to step up and ... acknowledge that and deal with it," Lott said. "If he's not going to be indicted ... then, you know, his view of what he does is very different," he said.

Reid previewed the potential for Rove to become a political lightning-rod, seeing his hand in what he said were White House plans to name a right-wing replacement for Miers who would spark an attention-diverting partisan brawl in the Senate.

"The president, I guess, is still being driven by Karl Rove," Reid told ABC's "This Week."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, asked about Rove's status on Friday, said he still works at the White House and declined to discuss any conversations between Bush and his senior staff.

Lawmakers also kept the spotlight on Cheney, who had told Libby that Plame worked for the CIA's counterproliferation division, according to the indictment.

Plame's husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, contends her identity was leaked to discredit his charges that the administration twisted intelligence on Iraq to justify war.

"The president ought to do his own internal investigation of the vice president's office, see what happened, set some standards and if need be take the vice president to the woodshed," New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham agreed that Bush should probe Cheney's office, but he attributed the White House's involvement in the Plame issue to a lawful desire to "set the record straight" after what he called an inaccuracy in Wilson's charges.

Some Republicans also looked for Bush to try to change momentum by quickly picking a new Supreme Court nominee after Miers' withdrawal.