Published January 14, 2015
President Bush's (search) national security team, which has stayed remarkably intact despite missteps in Iraq and his slumping approval ratings, is likely to undergo a major facelift if Bush wins a second term. Maybe even before.
Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) is expected to be first out the door in a second Bush administration — unless Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search) resigns before then amid a deteriorating situation in Iraq.
CIA Director George Tenet (search) has weathered many controversies under two presidents, but his days also may be numbered.
Rice is not keen to serve again as national security adviser, viewing it as a burnout job, a Rice associate said.
Attorney General John Ashcroft (search), the scourge of civil libertarians but a hero to conservatives, is said to be eager to serve in a second administration. He clearly relishes his role as Bush's chief domestic terrorism fighter.
Recent polls show that the Iraq war has cut sharply into Bush's approval ratings; some polls show him lagging behind Democrat John Kerry.
Bush has completely overhauled his economic team, firing his first treasury secretary and top economic adviser. He has not held his war council directly accountable for misjudgments on Iraq.
Rumsfeld, 71, has drawn the most fire, from underestimating the enemy to his handling of the allegations of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.
"I'm a survivor," Rumsfeld said during a visit to Baghdad after Bush publicly praised him. Yet his position could become untenable if conditions continue to worsen and if Bush concludes Rumsfeld is a political liability.
"Rumsfeld has been very effective in many respects, but he has not built up enormous reservoirs of support, either in Congress or elsewhere," said Kurt Campbell, a defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Who would Bush turn to? Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz seems a natural, although his close identification with Rumsfeld could hurt him. The job could also go to Rice or Ridge, veteran Bush observers suggest.
Powell's exit seems almost certain, even though he deflects questions about his future. It is unusual for any secretary of state to serve in a second administration.
Powell, a moderate, long has been the odd man out among Bush's hawkish senior advisers. The retired four-star general has seen his influence dwindle, first inside the administration and then around the world.
There is a buzz that he may be in line to head the World Bank, a job that would let him make the most of his foreign policy experience and devotion to humanitarian issues.
A similar move to the World Bank was made in November 1967 by Robert McNamara, who resigned as President Johnson's defense secretary as public opposition rose to the Vietnam War.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and the U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, are seen as possible successors to Powell. Rice also is a possibility, but has let it be known she has little taste for the heavy bureaucracy that comes with the post.
Rumsfeld may see himself as a survivor, but Tenet has proved to be one so far. A Clinton administration holdover, he has been CIA chief for seven years — and has spent much of it dodging controversies.
He owes his tenure to showing an intense loyalty to Bush and to CIA employees, and by cultivating members of Congress. He also is said to be liked by the first President Bush, a one-time CIA director.
But Tenet chances of staying on have been hurt by his reported assurance to Bush that the existence of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs was a "slam-dunk case" and by other intelligence lapses.
"He's developed a capacity to be of use. He's done a reasonably good job of running things and of taking heat," said defense intelligence analyst John Pike. "They may have to carry him out feet first."
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla., a former CIA agent, is a possible successor.
Bush is almost certain to want Rice for a second term, even if she's reluctant to stay in her current post.
"Rice seems to be so joined at the hip with the Bushes that I'd be kind of surprised if she were to peel off," said presidential scholar Fred Greenstein of Princeton. "She's obviously enormously important for him — as a kind of constant educator, one to unscramble all the complexities."
Vice President Dick Cheney, perhaps the most influential member of Bush's war council, has weathered speculation that he might be replaced on the GOP ticket. He has been an active campaigner and has drawn continual expressions of support from Bush.
But he is still a potential wild card. Cheney's approval ratings are even lower than Bush's. And, after four heart attacks, his health remains a concern.