White House insiders say George W. Bush 's mood swings have increased to the point where meetings with the President must be cancelled, schedules shifted and plans changed to keep a bitter, distracted leader from the public eye.
Aides say gallows humor has descended on the White House, where the West Wing is now referred to as "death row " and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, along with Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Scooter Libby, are known as "dead men walking, " a reference to the last walk death row inmates take to the execution chamber.
With indictments expected againt Libby or Rove or both any day now from the Valerie Plame scandal, the White House mood has a "Final Days " aura ( "Final Days " was the title of Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward 's book about the last days of the Nixon administration). Although no one expect President Bush to be impeached or resign, Internet blogs buzzed this week with talk of a possible resignation by Vice President Dick Cheney.
"That 's bullshit, " says one longtime Republican consultant. "They 'll have to carry Dick Cheney out of here on a stretcher. " But Rove and Libby will be gone if they are indicted and some wonder if the President, whose ability to govern is already limited by despair and detraction, can function without Rove, often referred to as "Bush 's brain. "
So does White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, who has served longer in the job than anyone in modern times. Card works 16 and 17-hour days and, in the words of one Republican member of Congress, looks "completely burned out. "
But holding the White House together behind what has been one of the better Presidential propaganda machines is proving next to impossible as the American public and even members of Bush 's own party desert him over the war in Iraq, the nomination of White House counsel Harriett Miers to the Supreme Court, the Hurricane Katrina debacle, rising gas prices and the Valerie Plame scandal.
"The faÃ§ade is gone and we are now seeing the Bush White House in all its incompetent glory, " says retired political science professor George Harleigh. "They 've ignored reality for too long. "
With Congress distracted by growing scandals swirling around former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Washington has become a daily killing field for anyone involved in the GOP leadership.
This week, Former Secretary of State Colin Powell 's right-hand man unloaded on the Bush Administration during a speech to the New American Foundation, saying American foreign policy had been hijacked by "a Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal " that has destroyed this country 's credibility with its allies.
"I 'm not sure the State Department even exists anymore, " Col. Larry Wilkerson, Powell 's chief of staff, told the audience of journalists and scholars. "It, like so many others things, have been destroyed by George W. Bush 's 'cowboyism. ' "
"You can 't sell sh*t, " he said.
Wilkerson isn 't the only high-profile Republican operative bailing on Bush. Bruce Bartlett, who served as a Senior Policy Advisor in Bush 's father 's administration, is about to release a book: Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Destroyed the Reagan Legacy. Bartlett lost his job at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative Texas think tank, when word of his book project leaked out.