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Grim Reaper Bolten ready to ax staff

How many folks were sweating in the room after this announcement by new chief of staff Josh Bolten on April 17? (CNN)

Signaling a possible shake-up among President Bush’s senior advisers, the new White House chief of staff told top presidential aides Monday to expect changes that “refresh and re-energize the team.” He invited anyone who is thinking of leaving before year’s end to do so now.

Bolten didn’t ask for anyone’s head at that time, but no one stepped forward to say they would leave, either.

“Fetal position” Scotty was the first to hit the self-eject button, Karl Rove got a mini-demotion, but according to Raw Story, the New York Times’ Elisabeth Bumiller has a column up tomorrow highlighting the extent of the sweating over Josh the Grim Reaper among the Bushies.

“There is fear and moaning in the West Wing these days as Andrew Card Jr., the genial father figure who promoted a family-friendly White House, has been replaced as chief of staff by Joshua Bolten, a Goldman Sachs-trained workaholic who is exposing President George W. Bush’s aides to market forces.

In other words, after a big set of staff changes last week – Karl Rove gave up his policy portfolio to focus on the midterm elections and Scott McClellan, the press secretary, resigned – no one is sure who is in and who is out. Aides say they are on edge, and Bolten has promised more housecleaning this week, after Bush returns from a four-day trip to California. Treasury Secretary John Snow is possibly the next to go.

…Bolten, who is single [More about that here: Another closet case serving Dear Leader? –Pam], keeps investment banker hours and is well known for staying at the office until 11 p.m. When he was White House deputy chief of staff in Bush’s first term, he was also known for making it to the 7:30 a.m. senior staff meeting with only minutes to spare.

Even more embarrassing, the Rethugs of the Beltway are now bleating for Darth (18% approval and falling) Cheney to get the hell out of Dodge, floating Condi (good god) as a replacement. The flopsweat of desperation flows…

Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard magazine and author of Rebel in Chief, a sympathetic new biography of Bush, said: “There are going to have to be sweeping personnel changes if people are going to take a second look at the Bush presidency.”

Barnes, who is close to the White House, said he believed Cheney would be willing to stand down in order to help Bush. “It’s unlike Bush to dump somebody whom he likes and respects,” he cautioned. “But the president needs to do something shocking and dramatic such as putting in Condoleezza Rice.”

Also: floating the Condi trial balloon for 2008 is already under way in some circles, including Freeperland.

…Tom Edmonds, a leading Republican consultant, said the White House had failed to grasp that the party was in desperate straits. “I have never talked to so many disenchanted Republicans,” he said. “The president even stonewalled the minor changes he made by talking about how he was really perfectly happy with his team. He didn’t even give himself wiggle room.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding