Fresh West Wing Dish!
And we're not talking about the TV show ...
White House counselor Karen Hughes'departure was no fun—everyone seems to believe she actually wants to spend more time with her family! But her leaving has, kausfiles hears, triggered a predictable scramble to get her powerful West Wing job.
The most intense scrambler (according to kausfiles' well-placed Bush source) appears to be Mary Matalin, currently an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney. As another brassy female, Matalin seems a logical candidate to replace Hughes. Cheney's camp is supporting Matalin, and she's experienced at talking to the press. There are just two problems, kausfiles hears:
1. Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, is opposed.
2. Bush doesn't like her.
Matalin doesn't know Bush doesn't like her. (Well, maybe she does now.) She thinks her relationship with him has improved.
It didn't help when Matalin opened up to Maureen Dowd of the New York Times —confessing to Dowd that she was "inspired" by Hughes' departure, even gushing that it made Hughes something of a feminist hero. ("If Karen can do the work she loves in the place she wants to live while making her family happy and the president happy, isn't that a breakthrough?") Matalin even filled the rest of Dowd's column with charming stories of her own children visiting the family-friendly White House.
Normally this sort of blather is good PR. But if her Dowd appearance was a campaign event, Matalin badly misjudged her audience. The Bush White House (not without reason) detests the NYT op-ed page, and Dowd in particular. It's hard to think of a worse place from which to lobby for a big West Wing job. Bush also despises leakers. He would probably prefer to hire somebody who had never heard of Maureen Dowd, let alone somebody who knew her and provided her with material.
P.S.: Matalin is not going to get the job.
P.P.S.: There's also a possible complication involving Matalin's husband, James Carville, the Democratic consultant and broadcast personality who ran Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign. Matalin, remember, ran George Bush Sr.'s 1992 campaign. (As a friend of mine once quipped, Carville and Matalin are famous because she's the woman who ran the worst presidential campaign in history, and he's the guy who beat the worst presidential campaign in history.) If the younger Bush doesn't want to repeat his father's mistakes, something he's reportedly obsessed with, he knows what to do—or, rather, what not to do. …
Photograph of Mary Matalin by Najlah Feanny/Corbis.