WASHINGTON – Saying the White House has been afflicted by a political "tin ear," Sen. Norm Coleman on Tuesday called on President Bush to bring in a new team.
"I have some concerns about the team that's around the president," said Coleman, a Minnesota Republican with close ties to Bush. "I think you need to take a look at it."
Coleman cited the White House's handling of the response to Hurricane Katrina, the failed nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court and the now-scuttled plans for Dubai-based DP World to take over terminals at six major U.S. seaports.
"All of a sudden we're hearing the phrase 'tin ear,"' Coleman said in a telephone interview. "That's a phrase you shouldn't hear. The fact that you're hearing it says that the kind of political sensitivity, the ear-to-the-ground that you need in the White House, isn't there at the level that it needs to be."
Coleman declined to specify which staff members should be replaced, or what new people should be brought in. He said he hadn't talked to Bush or anyone at the White House about his concerns.
"Ultimately the president has to make a decision about his team," Coleman said. "And the president knows what he needs. I think it's obvious to those on the Hill — and it's got to be obvious to those at the White House — that we're skipping too many beats nowadays. We're not operating at the highest level of political sensitivity that you need."
White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said the experience of the president's staff has served Bush well.
"This president has attracted very talented people who work very hard," he said. "But the longevity which might be under question by some has to be considered and balanced against the wealth of experience that this talented staff brings to the table."