Carville and Rollins Say White House Resignations Would be a Good Thing

In the months leading up to the imminent announcement from special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald concerning “Leakgate,” there has been an endless stream of gloomy predictions from mainstream media representatives that indictments would destroy the Bush administration, and totally dismantle the president’s agenda for the rest of his second term. For example, as was reported here, David Gergen stated on yesterday’s “Early Show,” “If indictments are handed down, it's going to be a real blow to the administration and comes at a terrible time.” And, “If [Bush] were to lose Karl Rove, he'll lose a right arm. And it’s really hard to climb out of a hole without your right arm.” 

By contrast, CBS’s Hannah Storm had Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican strategist Ed Rollins on “The Early Show” this morning, and the two high-profile pols didn’t agree with this assessment. In fact, both stated that if indictments are issued for Lewis Libby and Karl Rove which force them to resign, it could end up being a good thing for this White House (video link to follow):

Carville: If staff changes are made, they should take this as an opportunity -- it strikes me as a place that could stand a shakeup and a couple of changes. A lot of people have been there for a long time. There's nothing wrong with a little change.

Rollins: As James said, there's nothing wrong with change and no one is irreplaceable. There’s three more years to go in this administration.

Earlier in the interview, Carville also said: “They may lose some people. But you know, DeGaulle was right. The graveyards are full of indispensable men. If they have to resign, it might help them if they get some new people in there the way it's going.”

What follows is a full transcript of this report, and a video link.

Hannah Storm: As we've reported, the grand jury in the CIA leak investigation could deliver indictments as early as today against several top officials in the Bush administration. And if that happens, what does it mean for the president? We're joined by Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican strategist Ed Rollins. Good morning to both of you. Ed, let's start with you. If these indictments are handed up, that means in all probably that both Lewis Libby and Karl Rove will step aside. What does it mean for the president losing his top advisor with the White House in crisis.

Rollins: While, they’ve got to get focused, and he has to get replacements obviously quickly. Historically there have been lots of turnovers in the White House. This one hasn't had many. They’re very valuable players, but at the end of the day a year ago President Bush was the one who got elected and still has three years to go.

Storm: Well, James Carville, now that we see Vice President Cheney's name is in the middle of this mess, even though he didn't violate any sort of law, what is the implications for him?

Carville: Let's be fair here. What we know now he did not violate any law. We’ll just have to take it from there. Obviously, they're very distracted. They may lose some people. But you know, DeGaulle was right. The graveyards are full of indispensable man. If they have to resign, it might help them if they get some new people in there the way it's going.

Storm: We've already seen Republicans out there trying to position this, if these indictments are handed up, that this is a way of justifying the time and expense of the investigation. Is it fair to classify this as partisan politics?

Rollins: No, you can't, and you'd make a big mistake if you did, just as we found out when we tried to make a partisan issue out of Bill Clinton's problems. It backfired on us. I think it would be a big mistake to do that.

Storm: James, do you think this is a Washington issue primarily? Do you think people around the country understand what's going on?

Carville: Right now there's a huge disconnect between the country and Washington. Washington is completely consumed in something like I hadn't seen since the Lewinsky scandal. The rest of the country is not nearly as engaged. However, if there are indictments, if the legal system steps in, then the rest of the country will become extremely engaged. Right now it's correct to say there's a big disconnect between all-consumed Washington and a less than involved rest of the country.

Storm: Because really all the headlines this morning are about Iraq and this grim milestone, 2,000 service members have been killed. Is this really Ed at the heart of the public's discontent, Iraq?

Rollins: No question that's the issue. As the numbers rise and the longer we stay there – obviously we have to stay there --the more difficult everything else becomes. Just as James said, people are concerned about the hurricanes and the 2,000 young men and women who have lost their lives. This is a minor issue. It's a major issue in Washington and don't underestimate the seriousness of it.

Storm: Go ahead.

Carville: I'm agreeing with Ed. I mean, add to that the gas prices and healthcare costs. I've never seen Washington like this. It's complete consumption with this entire issue. Now, to be fair, if indictments come down, then the rest of the country will check in. But this will just feed the perception in the country that Washington is consumed with priorities that are not their priorities. That's the problem here.

Storm: Let me ask you, because you were in the Clinton administration with the Monica Lewinsky scandal, as you mentioned, and the impeachment that followed. Is there something President Bush can take out of Bill Clinton's playbook as to how to handle this? Remember Clinton was always saying, "I'm so focused on my duties as the president and not the scandal."

Carville: I think it will help if he shows he’s focused. These things are distracting in the same way a heart attack is distracting. It’s kind of hard to think of something else. To be fair, I think President Clinton did show kind of a remarkable capacity to publicly be concerned about other things. I think he's going to have to do that. And let's be fair. No one has been indicted, much less convicted yet. If staff changes are made, they should take this as an opportunity -- it strikes me as a place that could stand a shakeup and a couple of changes. A lot of people have been there for a long time. There's nothing wrong with a little change.

Rollins: As James said, there's nothing wrong with change and no one is irreplaceable. There’s three more years to go in this administration.

Storm: We had Clinton and Reagan with the Iran-Contra scandal. They both had unified party bases to support them. Now with the Harriet Miers nomination we see the Republican base fracturing a little bit. How problematic is that for the president?

Rollins: It was not a choice that the conservative base obviously is happy with. At the end of the day she will be Supreme Court judge or not. That will be done in a month. The bottom line, he has lots of other things to move forward in the agenda and a Republican majority, which is very important.

Storm: The Democrats are watching and waiting here, sitting back on the sidelines. Do you like that strategy?

Carville: Yes. This is the dirty secret of Washington that everybody understands. All of the opposition party wants the president to be unpopular. Okay? That's seen achieved. The problem is you become a failed president with three years to go, then the country really has a problem. I think both President Reagan and President Clinton went through a wet patch, slippery spots, whatever you want to call it, in the second terms but neither became were a failed president. With three years to go --

Rollins: Particularly as the commander in chief he has to function in that role.

Storm: Got to leave it there.

Video Link

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.