Bush names Bolten '76 chief of staff
President Bush named White House budget director Joshua Bolten '76 his new chief of staff Tuesday morning after Andrew Card, the current chief, announced his resignation.
At a brief Oval Office ceremony, Bush described Bolten as "a man with broad experience," "a creative policy thinker" and "a man of candor and humor and directness, who is comfortable with responsibility and knows how to lead."
"No person is better prepared for this important position," Bush added.
In a short statement after Bush's announcement, Bolten praised the president and Card, saying he was excited to take up the post.
"You've set a clear course to protect our people at home, to promote freedom abroad and to expand our prosperity," Bolten said to the president. "I'm anxious to get to work."
The news of a change at the White House doesn't come as a surprise. In the wake of increasing political problems for the administration, from Hurricane Katrina to the domestic wiretapping controversy to rising public concerns over the war in Iraq, Bush has come under mounting pressure in recent months from members of his own party to shake up the White House staff.
As recently as two weeks ago, however, media reports indicated that Card planned to stay on the job at least until September, when he would have broken the record for longest-serving chief of staff, after staying on the job for more than five years.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist '74 (R-Tenn.) praised Bolten in a statement Tuesday, describing him as a "dynamic and creative policymaker and a committed public servant."
Some Democrats, however, viewed Bolten's appointment as a superficial change, not a serious attempt to inject new blood into the White House.
"Simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic ... without a dramatic change in policy will not right this ship," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.
Life at Princeton
While a student, Bolten was president of both the Class of 1976 and Ivy Club.
"During his junior year, Mr. Bolten became a politician; he spent most of his time in meetings," an entry in the Nassau Herald reads. "During his senior year, Mr. Bolten discovered a felicitous mix of the above; he spent most of his time at the Ivy Club."
"There's probably nothing whiter than the clubs," Bolten said in a February 1976 article in The Daily Princetonian that examined the experiences of black students and the Bicker process. The late 1960s and early 1970s were a time of heavy transition for the University, with the decision to admit women, issues of race and the Bicker process all subjects of campus debate.
In a later letter to the editor, however, Bolten defended the clubs and the Bicker process, saying that "the insinuation that one of the criteria for membership in selective clubs is race ... is not simply false, but a perverse distortion of the truth."
"One night our sophomore year he said, 'I am going to run for class president,' just like that," Ned Nalle '76, Bolten's junior-year roommate, recalled in an interview. "He felt it was the right thing to do, and that's how he explained it to his friends. The field was very thick, but he emerged victorious."
"He was very well-liked, less perceived as a politico and more thought of as somebody who had the class' interest at heart, a doer rather than a talker," Peter Segall '76, another friend of Bolten's, said.
Bolten, a Wilson School major, wrote his 152-page thesis on "Judicial Selection in Virginia," where he sought to analyze and make policy proposals for the process of appointing judges at the state level. He sent out three-page surveys to 260 circuit and district court judges in Virginia and received 115 replies.
Walter Murphy, who served as Bolten's thesis adviser as well as new Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito '72's, said he could not quite recall Bolten's thesis.
"I confess and will not deny: I remember the name but only very vaguely, tho' positively, the man," Murphy said in an email.
Peter Moriarty '76, who was in the Government Club with Bolten, remembered him as "a consistent voice of conservatism during political debates ... He was a friendly and well-liked individual."
Jim Kelly '76, managing editor of Time Magazine, said that though he did not know him personally, Bolten was "extraordinarily responsible and mature beyond his years" when he served as chair of the Honor Committee.
"I am apolitical, but cannot imagine a better choice to be White House Chief of Staff," Kelly said in an email. "He is the real deal."
"I can only think of one person who could rival Andy Card in terms of being as cool-tempered, and that would be Josh," Jerry Cox '76, who knows both Bolten and Card, said.
"As a Republican and supporter of the administration, I'm very happy about this choice," Cox said. "He's as pragmatic as anyone can get."
Bolten graduated from Stanford Law School in 1980 and worked as a law clerk for San Francisco U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson.
"I don't know if he always had specific aspirations to work in the government, but policy has always fascinated him," Bolten's brother Randall '75 recalled in an interview.
In the 1980s, Bolten worked in both government and private industry. After spending several years at the State Department, he went on to serve as general counsel for the U.S. Trade Representative during the administration of George H. W. Bush.
After five years working as executive director of legal and governmental affairs at Goldman Sachs in London, in 2000, Bolten served as policy director of the Bush-Cheney campaign.
"I found him to be sharp and energetic and charismatic and with a tremendous philosophical compass," Bolten said of Bush in an interview with The Daily Princetonian in 2004. "Then a bunch of his friends came over for dinner, and he took us all to a [University of Texas] basketball game. So I knew he was my kind of guy."
Bolten assembled a brain trust of experts to advise the Republican candidates on a wide range of issues. Many of those experts — including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz — went on to take senior positions in the administration.
"When I met President Bush, he just raved about the policy work that Josh was doing," Cox recalled.
In Bush's first term, Bolten served as deputy chief of staff for policy and was later named director of the Office of Management and Budget, a cabinet rank position, where he crafted budget policies regarding Medicare reform, Hurricane Katrina and during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During his time at the White House, Bolten has regularly organized West Wing tours for Princetonians spending the summer working in Washington, as part of the Princeton-in-Washington program.
Motorcycle fan, band member
Born on Aug. 16, 1954, Bolten was the son of a covert CIA operative. He told his friends that his father worked at the Pentagon, not the CIA, in accordance with the policy of the agency. He graduated in 1972 from the St. Albans School in Washington, where he now serves on the governing board.
"He doesn't seek much publicity," Randall said. "He is, in real life, much the way he seems when you see him speaking in a press conference. He is very sharp, very low key and very witty."
"He can talk to anyone about anything," Nalle recalled. "He can identify an issue, lead a discussion towards consensus, make people feel heard, forge a consensus. I saw those qualities in the dorm, in his eating club and later on when he worked as a lawyer and at the White House."
"Josh was never one to be loud or strident in his views. He got things done quietly, by building relationships and quiet persuasion," Segall said.
Financial disclosure forms from 2003 show that Bolten declared assets of approximately $4 million. He's famous for his multiple motorcycles, including a Harley Davidson that he frequently drives to the White House.
"I've been riding motorcycles for about 25 years. And I enjoy it now, I think, especially because it's a form of relaxation and diversion that's beautiful and exhilarating," he said in a 2005 C-SPAN interview with Brian Lamb. Bolten also keeps a motorcycle at the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Bolten plays guitar in a group called "Deficit Attention Disorder."
"He's always been a very good guitarist," said his brother, adding that other members of the band may be other senior government officials. "It's just a guess, but you won't be seeing them at Reunions and Houseparties."
Related— White House aide Bolten '76 manages president's budget (March 12, 2004)
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