Thursday, June 15, 2006

Top Bush policy adviser leaving White House

Top Bush policy adviser leaving White House
By JoAnne Allen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - One of President George W. Bush's top policy advisers and former chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson, is stepping down to pursue other opportunities, a White House spokesman said on Wednesday.

Gerson was Bush's chief speechwriter during the president's first term and was promoted to policy and strategic adviser in 2005. He had been crafting major speeches for Bush since joining the former Texas governor's presidential campaign in 1999.

Gerson, listed as one of the 25 most influential Evangelical Christians in America by Time magazine last year, is credited with helping Bush give voice to his "compassionate conservative" philosophy, a central theme of his presidential campaigns.

"It is compassionate to actively help our fellow citizens in need. It is conservative to insist on responsibility and on results. And with this hopeful approach, we can make a real difference in people's lives," Bush said in an April 2002 speech in California.

Two years later, Bush returned to the theme in his acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention.

"I am running with a compassionate conservative philosophy: that government should help people improve their lives, not try to run their lives," Bush said.

A White House spokesman said Gerson announced he would be leaving the administration to write and pursue policy work.

"He's been one of the president's closest advisers and he's starting a new chapter in his life after serving his country and this president for seven years," spokesman Ken Lisaius said.

The Washington Post said Gerson planned to step down in the next couple of weeks.

Gerson will be the latest Bush aide to depart in recent months. Chief of Staff Andrew Card, press secretary Scott McClellan and Treasury Secretary John Snow have all stepped down as part of a major shake-up designed to revive the Bush administration as it struggles with slumping approval ratings.