A look at the cast of the real West Wing

SUN JOURNAL

Power: Since it was built in 1902, the West Wing has been the scene of intrigue and jockeying for position.

April 30, 2001|By David L. Greene | David L. Greene,Sun Staff

WASHINGTON -- Only recently have people begun to associate the West Wing with primetime television.

The West Wing -- that section of the real White House, not the show -- has been a source of intrigue since it was constructed as an addition to the presidential mansion in 1902. It houses the Oval Office, which is the president's personal workspace, and the offices of his top advisers and their staffs. The three-floor complex holds only a few dozen offices, none of them fitting for a chief executive officer of a major corporation.

Anyone set on having spacious workspace would be far better off being, for example, the secretary of education: his sprawling office is in the department's building along Independence Avenue and has far more room, more couches, more wall space than anything available in the West Wing.

The West Wing was built at the insistence of President Theodore Roosevelt, who complained that the presidential residence was overrun with aides and advisers. First called the Temporary Executive Office, it was not supposed to be permanent; for seven years the chief executive maintained his own offices in the mansion. But in 1909, the Oval Office was added to that "temporary" wing, and President William Howard Taft was the first to have his desk there.

With whom the president surrounds himself is a good gauge of where power rests in an administration. Under President Bush, offices in the West Wing have been divvied up by Andrew Card, the chief of staff. Offices of the vice president, chief of staff and press secretary are exactly where they were under President Bill Clinton.

But nearly every office is occupied by someone who worked for Bush when he was governor or who served the president's father during the first Bush administration. The second floor is populated almost exclusively by advisers brought from Texas.

The influence of two powerful Bush advisers is also clear. Karen Hughes and Karl Rove took over offices upstairs that served different functions under Clinton. Hughes displaces the Office of Public Liaison, which was moved to the Executive Office Building just west of the White House. Rove inherited Hillary Rodham Clinton's former digs.

The absence of the first lady in the West Wing also says something about the new administration. Hilary Rodham Clinton was the first presidential wife to insist on an office in the West Wing. Laura Bush has vowed to be a low-key supporter of her husband, playing a scant role in policymaking. It therefore seems fitting that she decided to return to tradition and requested an office near the presidential residence, not in the West Wing.

Margaret Tutwiler

Counselor: Nominated to become ambassador to Morocco, she was State Department spokeswoman under the senior Bush and a media strategist for the George W. Bush team during the Florida recount. Karen Hughes, who came in with no Washington experience, asked Tutwiler to be at her side for the first months to offer her advice on how best to craft the president's message and burnish his image.

Karen P. Hughes

Senior counselor: Was Bush's communications director during the campaign. Travels with the president, attends nearly every event with him and has a hand in almost everything he says. Has a large framed photo on the wall of her descending a staircase with Bush. The screensavers on computers throughout her office display a picture of Hughes and Bush.

Alberto Gonzalez

White House counsel: Another transplant from Texas. Gonzalez has been a pillar of the Texas legal community since 1995; he served as Gov. Bush's legal counsel, secretary of state, then a member of the state Supreme Court. Duties include advising president on range of legal issues.

Karl Rove

Top political adviser: A shrewd strategist credited with having won Bush the presidency. As a testament to his status, Rove moved into the office vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Margaret La Montagne

Domestic policy adviser: Known for her drawl, she was the architect of then-Gov. Bush's education reforms in Texas and is now responsible for all domestic issues, including education.

Clay Johnson

White House personnel director: Was Bush's campaign chief of staff and his college roommate at Yale and classmate in prep school.

Lawrence Lindsey

Chief economic adviser: A Harvard-educated economist who was a protege of Martin Feldstein, Lindsey's counterpart under Reagan.

Vice President Dick Cheney

Inherited the office used by Al Gore. Gore, of course, did not have a big map of Wyoming behind his desk. Cheney does.

Condoleezza Rice

National security adviser: Works in the first-floor corner space where presidents typically have their national security team. By having her office in the West Wing, she often boosts her influence by being the last person to brief Bush before he meets with a foreign leader.

Joseph Hagin

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