Filling Karl Rove's Loafers

WASHINGTON, D.C.—With White House adviser Karl Rove beginning to look like a real goner in the Valerie Plame affair, political insiders are speculating on who can hold things together for remaining years of the lame-duck Bush administration—or at the very least, can cover all the bases so the party doesn't completely go down the drain before the next presidential election.

No one person could replace Rove, but three Bush loyalists working together might do the job. They are:

  • Robert M. Kimmitt: Deputy secretary of the treasury, Kimmitt could step in on matters of energy policy and delicate trade-relations issues-hello, China. Kimmit is a former AOL Time Warner executive vice president for global and strategic policy. Another Bush pal, he's a West Point grad and former U.S. ambassador to Germany for the first president Bush. He made partner at the law firm Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering and with the investment bank Lehman Brothers, and is a former CEO of Commerce One and vice president of Global Public Policy.

  • Dan Bartlett: A Bush flunky for more than a decade and a current White House counselor to the president, Bartlett is now a lieutenant to Harriet Miers. Before that, he worked for Karen Hughes, whose job he took when she first left the White House. He started life at the feet of his master, Rove. He worked on both Bush runs for governor, and from 1994-1998 toiled in the Bush Texas governor's office as a deputy to the policy director. A recognized ace at packaging Bush programs in gobbledygook, he's described by the White House as “responsible for all aspects of President Bush's strategic communications planning and the formulation of policy and implementation of the President's agenda. He also oversees the White House Press Office and the Offices of Communications, Media Affairs, and speechwriting.” Bottom line: Bartlett has got to get the president's low polling numbers up. That means he may be the one who has most to do with rethinking the Bush message.

  • Ken Mehlman: Chair of the National Republican Party, Mehlman worked in the Bush White House under Rove as the person in charge of the president's political operations. The Harvard law graduate worked on Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign and the elder Bush's re-election campaign in 1992. Later he became chair of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. Bush pols like to point out that Mehlman is Jewish and thus a sign of diversity in the White House. Mehlman is unmarried, and political enemies gossip about him being gay. “If Ken Mehlman is gay, would he be sitting down with the editors of the Washington Times?'' asks Bill Berkowitz of Working for Change, a publication of Working Assets. “Would GOP governors still think he is the sharpest young strategist to come along since the late Lee Atwater? Would his sexual preference disqualify him from heading up the RNC in the minds of the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, and the American Family Association's Rev. Donald Wildmon?”

  • Additional reporting: Isabel Huacuja

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