Minutes after announcing the resignation of the White House press secretary, President Bush was the victim of another communications failure when his helicopter was prevented from taking off because of a broken radio.
Indeed, the sight of Marine One being grounded provided the type of vivid political symbolism that this US Administration has, in recent months, proved incapable of producing. Scott McClellans tormented, sweaty, pink-faced appearances in front of the White House press corps had, for some, become almost too painful to watch.
US President George W. Bush (R) looks on as White House Spokesman Scott McClellan announces his resignation at the White House in Washington, DC. "I've given my all, and will continue to do so as we transition to a new press secretary over the next two to three weeks," McClennan said.(AFP/Jim Watson)
The living symbol of this White Houses profound and perhaps mortal problem with language and meaning, was the verdict of the writer Michael Wolff in a recent Vanity Fair article. Hes Piggy in Lord of the Flies: a living victim, whose reason for being is, apparently, to shoulder public ridicule and pain . . . hes the person nobody would ever choose to be.
The departure of the White House press secretary from his role as whipping-boy for the nations media was not entirely unexpected. More surprising was the decision yesterday to strip Karl Rove, the mastermind of the Presidents two election victories, of his job overseeing policy development. Although he will remain close to Mr Bush as a deputy chief of staff and senior adviser, he has been ordered to concentrate on political strategy.
Joel Kaplan, formerly Joshua Boltens No 2 at the Office of Management and Budget, will move to the White House as deputy chief of staff for policy. A spokesman for the Democrats said that the reshuffle was like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.
It was unclear last night whether Mr Roves shift was motivated by fears that he could be dragged into a pending criminal prosecution of Lewis Scooter Libby, a former aide to Vice-President Cheney. Mr Libby is charged with perjury regarding the disclosure of the name of a covert CIA officer.
The changes are part of a reshuffle being organised by Mr Bolten, who replaced Andy Card last month as Chief of Staff. The moves are designed to reinvigorate the Administration, which appears to have become exhausted in the face of spiralling unpopularity.
Mr Bush has refused to heed calls from a half-dozen former generals for Donald Rumsfeld to be ousted from the Pentagon for mishandling the war in Iraq. But the President is widely expected to replace John Snow, the Treasury Secretary, who is being blamed for failing to convince voters that the economic news is good.
Mr McClellan, a member of the Presidents diminishing Texas-bred inner circle, was accorded full honours yesterday as he appeared at an impromptu press conference with Mr Bush on the South Lawn.
I have given it my all, sir, and I have given you my all, sir, and I will continue to do so as we transition to a new press secretary, he said.
Mr Bush replied that Mr McClellan had been given a challenging assignment. The President, in a nod to his own retirement in 2009, added: One of these days he and I are going to be rocking in chairs in Texas and talking about the good old days.
Copyright 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.