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.
"He 's like a zombie some days, walking around in a trance, " says one aide who, for obvious reasons, asks not to be identified. "Other times he launches into angry outbursts, cussing out anybody who gets near him. "
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.
"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. "
"Rove 's role is diminished already, " says one White House aide. "He still meets with The President daily but all this has taken its toll. He looks terrible. "
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.