Everything new is old again


When all else fails, the White House has not been afraid to boldly blame the supernatural.

In 1973, Alexander Haig, a backup chief of staff brought in from the bench to rescue the faltering Nixon White House, blamed the erasure of a vital — and most likely damning — presidential tape on "a sinister force."

And in the Reagan administration, Don Regan, a chief of staff also sacrificed in the interest of the greater good, revealed that first lady Nancy Reagan was guiding policy based on an astrologer’s reading of her horoscope. The whole Iran-Contra thing might have been just bad advice from Sagittarius.

In the Clinton administration, we had the "vast right-wing conspiracy." While not technically supernatural, the way Hillary conjured up images akin to the dementors, the evil Azkaban prison guards swirling through the Harry Potter books. Alas, the right-wing conspiracy is now mostly focused on flying on private jets to exclusive golf resorts at other people’s expense.

So now we come to President Bush’s problems, which this week entailed the ritual second-term sacrifice of a chief of staff, Andrew Card, to be replaced by a virtually identical chief of staff, Josh Bolten, imported all the way across the White House driveway from the budget office.

And what accounts for the mysterious succession of blunders, gaffes, oversights and just plain bad luck that has afflicted the White House?

Let former White House aide and informal adviser Mary Matalin explain Bolten’s special significance, invisible to those who witnessed the awkward little changing-of-the-guard ceremony:

"The president’s given him full license to bring in more or remove or to recalibrate for the purposes of re-energizing and getting our mojo back. If anybody knows how to get their mojo, it’s Josh."

Now "mojo" and "Bush" are not words that often occur in the same sentence. Surely, Matalin is the first with that honor, but missing mojo _ magic powers and personal and sexual magnetism _ would explain a lot.

Bolten’s resume _ Princeton, Stanford Law, Goldman Sachs, senior Senate staff _ is impressive, but does not seem to particularly prepare a person for mojo retrieval.

The first question is: Where does he look?

Perhaps it’s in that file drawer in the Bureau of the Public Debt in Parkersburg, W.Va., where Bush last year made a great show of looking at some folders of government IOUs. Since the national debt was $7.7 trillion then and is now more than $8 trillion and on a speedy track to reach $9 trillion, that publicity stunt, in retrospect, is as embarrassing as "Mission Accomplished." Talk about your lost mojo.

If mojo is a problem, let us suggest a possible source. In the soggier precincts of still-drying-out Louisiana, there was _ and is _ great anger at the government’s late and poorly coordinated Hurricane Katrina response.

Since Louisiana is a center of voodoo, it’s not out of the question that a voodoo priest put a curse on the White House and even now is sticking pins into a Bush doll. We can see Bolten in his pinstripes and wingtips slogging through the swamps, alligators and cottonmouths to reach some isolated island deep in the bayous to ask the voodoo papa or maman to please lift the curse and restore the president’s mojo.

If I were the priest, I’d hold out for a reward, perhaps the job of White House chief of staff. Washington is just too wonderful.



(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com)