WASHINGTON – The changing of the guard involving President Bush's chief of staff is renewing speculation about the fate of Treasury Secretary John Snow, who has been the administration's lead economic salesman for three years.
"The president appreciates the job his economic team is doing," White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters Thursday, when asked about a New York Times story which said that Joshua Bolten, Bush's incoming staff chief, wanted to make changes to the economics team and wanted to replace Snow. The Times cited unidentified sources for its story.
McClellan didn't rule out changes at the helm of Treasury, saying Bolten has the authority to recommend personnel changes throughout the Bush administration. But, McClellan added: "Any speculation at this point is way premature."
Bush announced on Tuesday that Bolten, the White House's budget director, would succeed longtime chief of staff Andy Card in mid April.
Snow, 66, took the top Treasury job after the president fired his first Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, whose blunt-speaking ways came to irk the White House as well as some Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Congress.
Amid the fresh speculation Thursday that his job could be in jeopardy, Snow said only: "I don't think it's comfortable to make a comment on rumors from nameless sources."
A holder of a Ph.D in economics as well as a law degree, Snow had been chief of railroad giant CSX Corp. before taking over Treasury.
He arrived when the U.S. economy was still struggling to get back to full throttle after the 2001 recession and the nation's job market remained in fragile condition. During his tenure, the economy grew stronger and eventually the job market did, too.
Snow has traveled around the country and participated in TV and radio interviews promoting the president's economic policies — including advocacy for a series of tax cuts and for Congress to make them permanent, tax simplification and overhauling Social Security — which stalled out in Congress as Republicans and Democrats balked.
The Treasury secretary also plays an important role in international financial matters. Treasury spokesman Tony Fratto noted that Snow is gearing up for the meeting of the world's richest nations in Washington in late April.
The Treasury secretary also has an extensive travel schedule planned, Fratto said.