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White House chief of staff resigns

Budget director Josh Bolten to succeed Andrew Card

Andy Card's resignation comes during calls for a major shake-up of the White House staff.



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White House
Office of Management and Budget
George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Amid calls to inject fresh blood into his White House staff, President Bush announced Tuesday that his chief of staff, Andrew Card, has resigned and will be replaced by budget director Josh Bolten.

"Andy Card has served me and our country in historic times," the president said in making his announcement from the White House, with Card and Bolten by his side.

Card served "on a terrible day when America was attacked, during economic recession and recovery, through storms of unprecedented destructive power, in peace and in war," Bush said.

"In all these challenges and accomplishments, I have relied on Andy's wise counsel, his calm in crisis, his absolute integrity and his tireless commitment to public service," Bush said. He noted that Card was "on most days ... the first one to arrive in the West Wing and among the last to leave." (Watch what Bush said of Card and Bolten -- 4:17)

As the president's chief of staff, Card has managed the daily operations of the White House and is involved in almost every aspect of the executive branch. Prior, he had served as former deputy chief of staff and transportation secretary under Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, as well as in the Reagan administration.

Bolten's transition into the new job will take effect on April 14, a little less than three weeks away. (Watch what the shake-up means -- 2:41)

"Josh is a creative policy thinker. He's an expert on the budget and our economy," Bush said Tuesday. "He's respected by members of Congress from both parties. He's a strong advocate for effective, accountable management in the federal government."

"I am deeply honored now by the opportunity to succeed Andy Card as White House chief of staff," Bolten said. "I say 'succeed Andy Card' and not 'replace' him because Andy cannot be replaced."

Card has been a part of Bush's inner circle since the president's first day in office and was known for his dedication to his job. The average tenure of the president's chief of staff is two years.

In parting, Card said that Bolten was the right man for "a new season," and he paid tribute to his boss, calling him a "good man." (View Bolten's biography)

"As a chief of staff I know I was a staffer, and now I look forward to being your friend," Card said Tuesday, his eyes slightly watery.

The president and Card slapped each other on the back a few times, and the three men walked out of the Oval Office together.

As the president's poll numbers continue to fall over questions about Iraq and the handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, chatter grew louder in recent weeks about a White House staff shake-up. A March 12 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found Bush's approval rating at 36 percent, his lowest ever. (See how his second term has slumped)

One senior official told CNN that Card came to the president earlier this month and said he would like to step down after serving as the top White House aide for the last five and a half years.

After a "number of conversations," according to the senior official, the president accepted Card's resignation this past weekend during a meeting at Camp David.

At a news conference one week ago, Bush said that he was "satisfied with the people I've surrounded myself with," calling his administration "remarkably stable."

"These are good, hardworking, decent people," he said last Tuesday. "And we've dealt with a lot, we've dealt with a lot. We've dealt with war. We've dealt with recession. We've dealt with scandal. We've dealt with Katrina. I mean, they've had a lot on their plate. And I appreciate their performance and their hard work, and they've got my confidence. (Read the transcript)

Will Bolten appointment bring new energy?

Questions may arise about how big a difference Bolten, who like Card is also considered an "inner circle adviser," will be able to make. ( Will Bolten make a difference?external link)

Some GOP strategists have been privately grumbling that a staff shake-up should go further than just Card's departure. The names of Republican Sens. Dan Coats and Fred Thompson have been floated, amid calls for the president to bring in an unofficial ambassador to Capitol Hill to repair frayed relations with top Republicans in Congress.

The name of former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot has also been mentioned.

A senior administration official said the decision over whether there will be more staff changes will be up to the president and his new chief of staff.

Others Republicans suggest Bolten has proven more accessible than Card and that Republicans will be more inclined to call Bolten directly with grievances or suggestions. "At OMB he has had to interact directly and repeatedly with members, and while the interaction will decrease there is a reservoir of good will," a senior Republican Senate aide told CNN.

Sources told CNN that Card was primarily focused on helping Bush direct the strategy for the Iraq war and was not as accessible to congressional Republicans on other matters.

One Democrat called the change cosmetic, another called it misguided.

"The good news is the administration has finally realized it needs to change its ways, but the problems go far deeper than one staffer," said a statement from Sen. Charles Schumer of New York. "Simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic by replacing Andy Card with Josh Bolten without a dramatic change in policy will not right this ship."

Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois offered praise for Card, calling him "reasonable, professional and a man of his word," but added, "If the White House is looking to change course, they picked the wrong person to toss overboard."

"The American people are looking for a new direction from the Bush administration," Durbin said. "It remains to be seen whether Josh Bolten can put the White House on the right course."

Bolten was sworn in as the director of the Office of Management and Budget in June 2003.

"From January 2001 through June of 2003, Mr. Bolten was Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy at the White House," according to his biography on the White House Web site.

"From March 1999 through November 2000, he was Policy Director of the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign. Mr. Bolten also served as Policy Director of the Bush-Cheney transition," the biography stated.

CNN's Ed Henry and Mark Preston contributed to this report.

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