McClellan: He tries to explain Karl Rove’s new job

SHARE McClellan: He tries to explain Karl Rove’s new job

Artful spinning on explanation of Karl Rove’s new job…


Office of the Press Secretary

(Tuskegee, Alabama)


For Immediate Release April 19, 2006




Aboard Air Force One

En Route Montgomery, Alabama

11:11 A.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN: All right, good morning, everybody. The President had his usual briefings this morning. Then he had breakfast with the four Governors who had just returned from their trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, I believe Pakistan, as well. You all heard the remarks from the Governors and the President.

Then following that, the President had the meeting with some Iraqi soccer children that were there. And I think you all got some pictures of that, as well.

And then of course you heard the announcement that he and I made upon departure. When we get to Alabama, the President is going to — he’ll participate in a demonstration of nanotechnology research. This is at Tuskegee University. What he’s going to do is view some of their experiment on nanofiber technology that has helped, among other things, to produce more advanced combat body armor. And the demonstration will showcase their innovations and their contributions to keeping America competitive, as well.

And what I’ll do is, if you all want, after we talk — I know you’ve got some other things on your mind, and I’ve got another announcement to make, but after I’ve gone through the questions here, if you want Dr. Marburger to come back, I’ll have him talk more about our competitiveness initiative and where we are on that, plus he’s got some of the booklets that we handed out a long time ago, as well. You all may be interested in that.

Let’s see — Senator Sessions is traveling with us. And just so you know, when we were departing the White House, the chopper when it was starting back up, they realized that they had problems with the radio, and so that’s why we had to motorcade to the airplane. I think we got that word to you all back there.

Now the announcement I have. Josh Bolten has recommended, and the President today is announcing that he has selected Joel Kaplan as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy. Joel will be responsible for the policy development process within the White House. He will work closely with the policy councils and cabinet agencies to provide the President with the best possible advice on all policy matters.

As you all know, I think, Joel has worked very closely with Josh Bolten for the last six years. Joel’s experience over the last five-plus years in the White House makes him exceptionally well qualified to serve in this position. During the first three years in the White House, Joel was Special Assistant to the President in the Office of Chief of Staff, and he worked very closely with Josh under his direction and supervision, and assisted in the coordination, development and implementation of administration policy.

In this role, Joel is going to be focused on a wide range of policy, international policy including international economic — well, let me back up. He’ll focus on a wide range of issues in this role. Back when he was Special Assistant, he focused on a wide range of issues, too, including international economic affairs, homeland security, energy and transportation.

Then as Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Joel has been intimately involved in all aspects of the President’s agenda. And he has worked both with Congress and the Cabinet to getting that agenda enacted.

So that’s the announcement I have. We’ve got a personnel release that Josh has with him right now — Josh Deckard, that is. And he can hand that out. It’s got a quote from the President in it, as well. But as you all know, each Chief of Staff organizes the office the way he feels will best serve his needs, and that’s what — that’s the recommendation that Josh made to the President and the President agreed was the thing to do.

Q Can you clarify what Karl Rove’s role will be?

MR. McCLELLAN: Karl will continue to be Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to the President. What this will do is it will allow him to focus more on the larger strategic planning, and Joel will focus on the day-to-day management of the policy process. And so this really frees Karl up to focus on bigger strategic issues. He will continue to be a crucial voice and trusted advisor on policy — Karl will, that is — as he has been since the beginning of this administration.

Q So he will have less a policy role than he had before?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Joel will do the day-to-day management of the policy process and work closely with all those councils. Karl’s voice will continue to be a crucial one in the policy process as it has been all along. But like I said, this is a critical and challenging time that we are in, and this really frees Karl up to focus on larger strategic issues.

Q Can you talk a little bit more about how your resignation came about today? Was this something that you wanted to do, or did you feel pressured?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I started thinking about this over — more seriously over the last few weeks. And with the new Chief of Staff coming on board, it was a good time to make this decision. Three years would have been an awfully long time in this position. I’ve been at this for a long time. I didn’t need much encouragement to make this decision, even though you all kept tempting me.

Q Is it bittersweet? Is your announcement —

MR. McCLELLAN: No, not at all. The President and I had a very good discussion about this earlier this week, and I’m looking forward to a new chapter in my life. I’ve been very honored to be a part of this team, and to serve the President.

Q What are your plans now?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m just beginning to think about it. When you’re in this position, you don’t have time to really think about what’s next. This is a position where you really have to focus on the here and now. I’ll be thinking about that, but I also am going to remain fully focused on the job for the remainder of the time that I am here at the White House. I expect to be here for another two to three weeks; the process of — I want to be helpful in the process of finding a new press secretary.

Q How is that process going? Is there a short list? Do you expect it to be fast?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not going to get into speculating about it. But I’ll certainly be helpful in the transition and helpful in identifying someone who will serve the President well.

Q Do you know what they might be looking for in particular in a new press secretary? Is there anything specific?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that we’ll have more to say once that person is ready to be named.

Q When did you go and tell the President you were planning to resign?

MR. McCLELLAN: Earlier this week.

Q Can you give us a date?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, Monday I talked to him.

Q In the Oval Office?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, in the Oval Office. We had a very good conversation.

Q What did you say?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’ll leave it a private conversation.

Q In terms of the Joel job, can you flesh out the structural change there for some of us who are newer? Is this melding economic and —

MR. McCLELLAN: The best way to look at it is, this will be much like it was when Josh was in the position at the beginning of this administration. Joel is very familiar with the way the process worked when Josh was in that position, because he was helping him as a special assistant in the Office of Chief of Staff. And so that’s the way to look at it. Joel will manage the day to day policy process, working closely with all the policy councils and the cabinet departments.

Q Foreign and domestic?


Q So now there will be three deputies?

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s just the way it was under Josh, as well.

Q There are three deputy chief of staffs now?

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s correct.

Q Does this reduce Karl’s influence in the White House?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, remember that — it would be wrong to look at it that way, by any means. In fact, as I pointed out, Karl has been a very important voice in the policy process from the very beginning, and he will continue to be. But now he can focus really on the larger strategic issues that we’re dealing with during this challenging time period.

And remember, when we made this announcement — when we talked about Karl assuming some of these responsibilities, Karl was carrying a very large load with all this, and Josh felt it was important to have one person focused on the day-to-day management of the policy process. We announced it, we talked about how Joe Hagin and Mike Gerson would be involved in certain parts of that policy process. They’re going to continue to provide advice, but now the policy process will be under one person, in terms of the management of it.

Q Does this, in some ways, make Karl Rove’s role similar to what it used to be, where he’ll be focusing on politics and maybe the midterms, and things like that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I wouldn’t look at it that way. That’s not the way Josh approached it, and that’s not the way he views it. I would reemphasize that we are in a critical time period. There are a lot of challenges that we’re having to address. And Karl is someone who has always been intimately involved in the strategic planning and addressing these bigger strategic issues. And that’s what this will free him up to do more of that.

Q Is having Karl look at the strategic issues born out of concern over the GOP sinking in the polls recently?

MR. McCLELLAN: This is born out of a new Chief of Staff coming on board and wanting to structure the office the way that he feels will suit him the best.

Q Back to your resignation. With the new Chief of Staff, did you feel any pressure to resign, or was it fully and freely your own decision?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, in fact I had a good discussion with Josh about this decision, and I felt it was a good time to do this. When Andy made his announcement, I think it started — I know it started me reflecting a little bit more, and thinking about how long I’ve been there. Two years and nine months in this position is quite a long period of time. And so I had been thinking about it over the last few weeks much more seriously than I ever had before. I mean, I can’t say there aren’t days before when I’ve thought about it, but this was first when I really started seriously thinking about it, and came to the decision that this was a good time to do it.

Q It was on Monday, after you had that staff meeting in the morning, did you take —

MR. McCLELLAN: I had been thinking about this prior to that meeting.

Q And when did you have the conversation with Josh?

MR. McCLELLAN: Just recently, over the last — it was before I had it with the President. I think it was the end of last week.

Q Are there any more changes in the works?

MR. McCLELLAN: Nothing else to announce today. We’ll keep you posted, if there are.

Q Will your plans include helping your mother’s campaign?

MR. McCLELLAN: I, of course, will do everything I can to help her. But in terms of my next career opportunity, I’ve just begun to think about that.

Q Is Karl moving offices?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think they’re still having discussion on exactly what the setup will be, in terms of that.

Q He’ll maintain his security clearance, and everything like that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, absolutely, yes.

Q What do you mean by strategic planning issues? Can you give us a more specific explanation of that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don’t — there’s probably a lot of examples. I don’t have one that I came back here to cite for you, but Karl has always been very involved in kind of the longer-term strategic planning. And I think you have to look at in the context of a new Chief of Staff coming on board and wanting to structure this in a way that he feels is best, and in the context of the time period that we are in. We’ve had a lot of challenging issues we’re trying to address, and what this does is allow Karl to focus more on how we move forward to address those issues.

So think about it from that strategic perspective, and the larger-picture view. With all the load that he had previously, and the management of a good part of the policy process, that’s a pretty heavy load to carry for anybody, and Karl did it very well. But this frees him up to now focus more on that strategic side of things.

Thank you all.

END 11:26 A.M. EDT

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