TOPICS > Politics

White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card

June 7, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


MARGARET WARNER: Welcome, Mr. Card. Thanks for coming in.

ANDREW CARD: Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET WARNER: For months the Bush administration appeared to resist pressure from the Hill to create this Cabinet level Homeland Security Agency. Why did the president change his mind?

ANDREW CARD: He didn’t. Actually, the president way back last year when we first took office, he charged the vice president with taking a look at homeland defense. And the vice president went out and analyzed the Hart-Rudman proposal and Governor Gilmore’s commission proposal on homeland defense. And it was fortuitous that that happened, because it allowed us to be more prepared after September 11.

And when the president on September 20th called for the creation of the Homeland Security Office in the White House, the Homeland Security Council, and the Homeland Security Adviser, and he named Tom Ridge, a lot of work had already been done.

And when Tom Ridge started in the first week in October, he invited members of the House and the Senate, Republican and Democrat, to come down to the White House and talk to Tom Ridge, and the president was there and the president said, I know a lot of your suggestions may be creating departments, and there are other suggestions out there; I want Tom Ridge to first harden America. Let’s make sure that there is not another attack, and that we are prepared in case there is one, and then take a look at the best of government to see how we should reorganize.

And during that process there was every expectation that there might be a call for a department. So this is something that the president was open to. He did not change his mind. He did say that Tom Ridge’s first job was to harden the country and secure America. And his second job was to look to see how we should better reorganize.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. But I mean in early October, this is just one example, Ari Fleischer, the spokesman, was asked, you know, a lot of people on the Hill say this director needs Cabinet authority and Cabinet rank and so on, and he said, Fleischer said, the president just doesn’t see the need for it; it’s just not necessary.

ANDREW CARD: At that point he was exactly right.

Can you imagine what would have happened if everything had to come to a stop while Congress considered, first of all, whether they wanted to create an office for our homeland security, and then confirm an individual named Tom Ridge to head it.

It would have taken weeks of congressional testimony for them to decide what to do and who to put in the slot. And we didn’t have time. We had to harden America.

And the president used all of the authority he had to create the Office of Homeland Security. And he directed Tom Ridge to harden America. And then he said, after you’ve done that, get to work on what the government should look like to meet the threats of the 21st century.

So this is very consistent. And if we had waited for a Tom Ridge to be confirmed in some entity that had no definition until the president created it by executive order, we would have probably been more vulnerable to attack.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. And then let me also ask you about the timing of this week because Tom Ridge was on this very program on May 9th, and he told Jim Lehrer that he was going to get his report – his proposal – his recommendation to the president by July 1.

ANDREW CARD: And he had it there a little sooner.

MARGARET WARNER: A little sooner?

ANDREW CARD: Which is very good. And he’ll have more reports that will come out before July 1.

MARGARET WARNER: But, as you know, there have even been quotes and news stories from senior White House officials.

ANDREW CARD: Don’t believe everything that you read in the newspapers.

MARGARET WARNER: Yes. And they were blind quotes, saying that this particular week the congressional hearings opened on reports of intelligence failures before 9/11, that suddenly this announcement came out, and that there was a connection. No connection?

ANDREW CARD: Absolutely not.

I can tell you with great assurance that we presented this report to the president when it was ready, and the president presented it to Congress as soon as it was ready because the most important thing to happen is for Congress to consider it and get it done this year.

If we waited for you in the media to say, okay, now’s the time, there’s no other news going on, present your plan; Congress might argue we don’t have time to consider it.

And as soon as it was ready – and, remember, this is changing the government – it’s a very historic recommendation similar to what Harry Truman did when he recommended the creation of the Department of Defense. And if we dilly-dallied, there probably would have been a lot of sniping from bureaucracies in the executive branch, sniping from Congress, and the president said, I want to do what is right in terms of securing America for the American people.

And as soon as his recommendations were ready for presentation to Congress, he said, I’m going to do it; I’m going to challenge Congress to do it the same way we did – quickly.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Now, the president, moving on to getting this thing approved, the president talked today, warned today against letting turf battles set it back.

What kind of turf battles do you expect? Where are you expecting the resistance?

ANDREW CARD: Well, in the executive branch of government we could have anticipated turf battles from a lot of different bureaucracies. There are over 100 entities in the federal government that have something to do with homeland security. But none of them had as their primary mission securing the homeland, so we avoided turf battles in the executive branch by working quickly, quietly, and effectively. And on the Hill –

MARGARET WARNER: Let me just interrupt you. Do you mean by that, that you basically didn’t tell these Cabinet secretaries?

ANDREW CARD: That’s correct. We did – we consulted a lot without them realizing we were consulting, because we did our homework. And then we presented them with the president’s decision, and they were presented the decision and told that it was the right thing. And we showed them how it was the right thing and they agreed.

Congress has a challenge too. There are 88 different committees in Congress that have some jurisdiction over homeland security. That means that they are inefficient in dealing with homeland security, but those bureaucracies in Congress probably invite – I’m going to say bureaucracies in the executive branch – not to be very efficient – so Congress should take the charge that the president gave them and meet the charge by addressing their own bureaucracies.

We can’t tell them how to do it, or what to do. We presented a solution to homeland security that is best for the American people, and we invite them to use diligence, look at it, but then approve it.

MARGARET WARNER: You were the one, I gather, who the day before yesterday had to actually inform these Cabinet secretaries that they –

ANDREW CARD: It actually started Tuesday night.

MARGARET WARNER: And how did they take it?

ANDREW CARD: Extremely well. Without exception, they recognized that this was the right thing to do, and that they were going to support the president. And it started off with Secretary Rumsfeld and worked all the way through those Cabinet agencies that were affected.

And if you look at this proposal, it was put together without bias. It wasn’t put together in the context of this bureaucracy, or the color of a uniform, or the name of an individual. It was, what is the best thing to do in terms of securing America, and if that is the best thing, shouldn’t we bring it on, so that the public can consider it?

And I would say that our Cabinet has been outstanding in recognizing this is the right thing to do, and they’ve been very supportive.

And that means they’re not protecting turf; they’re protecting the American people.

MARGARET WARNER: Is Tom Ridge going to head it?

ANDREW CARD: You know, he certainly would be able, and the first challenge is to create it. So let’s see how Congress comes along in adopting the recommendations.

When Harry Truman, when President Truman presented a need for a Defense Department, it took three years for Congress to create that Defense Department. And it took 40 years for Congress to give that Defense Department all of its authority. It was when Goldwater-Nichols was passed in 1986.

MARGARET WARNER: But you don’t want that to happen?

ANDREW CARD: We do not want that to happen. So we’ve said this is the right solution, act quickly and get it done. And we’ll work – in fact, the president directed Tom Ridge to be available to go to Congress and testify about the importance of this new Department.

And let’s get Congress to create it, and then we’ll see who heads it. And Tom Ridge would be wonderful if he were to head it.

But first we’ve got to get it done. It would be horrible if Congress took this recommendation and watered it down to something that wasn’t going to protect the American people.

And would Tom Ridge want to head a Department that couldn’t do its job? No. So we think we have to see how Congress will respond to the appropriate challenge the president has laid out.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Now the major reported intelligence failures, such as they were before 9/11, involve the FBI and CI, and not sharing intelligence, and sometimes not even with their own agency, yet, these two agencies are virtually untouched by this, why?

ANDREW CARD: Because, first of all, the CIA appropriately reports to the president. It should not report to another Cabinet agency. And reforms have taken place inside the CIA where they recognize that their primary challenge is to prevent an attack on the United States and to protect America’s interest.

The FBI likewise did not have as their primary mission protecting the homeland. Their primary mission prior to September 11 was really catching spies and building a case for prosecution. Bob Mueller has recommended important changes in the FBI, the right kind of changes. And we knew what he was going to do, and it’s complementary to the effort to create a Homeland Security Department.

But let me tell you why they’re not in the Homeland Security Department. The FBI is a law enforcement agency. The chief law enforcement officer of the United States is the Attorney General, the Justice Department. But the FBI does collect dots, analyze dots. The CIA collects dots, analyzes dots.

The president said one redundancy that would be right for government would be to have more people analyze the dots to see how they connect.

So the new Department of Homeland Security will have a threat analysis division that will see how the dots connect. And they’ll have the advantage of also getting dots from the DEA and the Customs and Immigration & Naturalization Services and the Coast Guard and the Border Patrol. So that means that we will have another set of eyes looking to see how dots might be connected. The Homeland Security Department will not be out doing intelligence work; they’ll be analyzing intelligence work.

They will be a customer for the CIA and the FBI.

MARGARET WARNER: I can’t let this interview end without asking you about the quote from you in this Esquire article about Karen Hughes leaving the White House. And I’m just going to read you a couple – because I’d love you just to explain –

ANDREW CARD: You shouldn’t presume that all quotes that are in a magazine or a newspaper are accurate.

MARGARET WARNER: Well, let me ask you about this one. You said “The whole balance of this place, the balance of what has worked up to now for George Bush” –

ANDREW CARD: Alleged that I said –

MARGARET WARNER: You can tell me if you did or not – “is gone simply gone – this balance.” “My biggest concern — that the president will lose confidence in the White House staff because without her we’ll no longer be able to provide the president what he needs.”

ANDREW CARD: More importantly about that article –

MARGARET WARNER: I mean, is this what you said?

ANDREW CARD: If I were to go back and forth over every alleged quote in that article, it wouldn’t be appropriate.

The important thing is the White House is working very well. Karen Hughes has been a major contributor to the successes of this president, as has the rest of the White House team, and we work very, very well together. And our job is to serve the president. And he is serving the American people well, because his staff does a good job for him –

MARGARET WARNER: Somehow I don’t feel you’re really answering my question. I mean, if –

ANDREW CARD: It’s an irrelevant question because it’s not about me; it’s about the president and how he performs, and he does a great job. And my job is to make sure the staff does a good for the president, and he has all the tools that he needs to make a decision.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Now you also talked about the difficulty in trying to make sure the president was well served and you said “The key balance around here” — it’s alleged you said – “has been between Karen and Carl Rove” and you said you had been standing in the middle trying to balance them, and that one of them had just jumped off.

You said, you would have to elevate other people now to balance against Carl, quote, unquote, but it won’t be easy. Carl is a formidable adversary. What are you talking about?

ANDREW CARD: Carl is a very strong leader, who has served the president very well and will continue to serve the president well. Karen has a very strong personality and she’s served the president well. Karen’s hole will be difficult to fill, and we can fill it because they’re outstanding people, and Karen will continue to be involved in the success of this presidency.

But we’ll work it out. It’s going to be a great White House. The president provides the leadership, and I’m very comfortable with how the White House is working. The real test is how the president does his job; and he does it very well for the American people.

MARGARET WARNER: All right, Andy Card, thanks very much.

ANDREW CARD: Thank you.