On one side are the dwindling numbers of die-hard loyalists to President George W. Bush, those who support his actions and decisions without question and remain committed to both Bush and scandal-scarred political advisor Karl Rove.
On the other side are the increasing numbers of those who say Rove must go and who worry about the President's declining mental state and his ability to restore credibility with Congress, our foreign allies and the American people.
The war erupted into full-blown shout fests at Camp David this past weekend where decorum broke down in staff meetings and longtime aides threatened to quit unless Rove goes. Insiders say Chief of Staff Andrew Card now leads the anti-Rove legions and has told Bush that he wants out of the high-pressure job.
Bush, whose obscenity-laced temper tantrums increase with each new setback and scandal, abruptly ended one Camp David meeting by telling everyone in the room to "go f*ck yourselves" before he stalked out of the room.
Senior aides describe Bush as increasingly "edgy" or "nervous" or "unfocused." They say the President goes from apparent coherent thought one moment to aimless rambles about political enemies and those who are "out to get me."
"It's worse than the days when Ronald Reagan's Alzheimer's began setting in," one longtime GOP operative told me privately this week. "You don't know if he's going to be coherent from one moment to the next. What scares me is if he lapses into one of those fogs during a public appearance."
Aides say Bush, who has always had trouble focusing during times of stress, is increasingly distant during meetings, often staring off into space during discussions on the nation's security and other issues.
Card has responded to the crisis by cutting back on the number of staff members with direct access to the President and jumping in to answer questions when Bush's mind wanders.
"Some people say Karl Rove is 'Bush's brain,'" says one increasingly-concerned West Winger. "Well Andy has become the President's voice. He's there to speak when the President seems unable to find form an answer."
Bush's mental state is a hot topic on Internet blogs and has increased since this web site disclosed last year that the White House physician had placed the President on anti-depressant medication - a story the administration never denied. Others, including prominent psychiatrists like Dr. Justin Frank of George Washington University, wonder if Bush, an admitted heavy drinker who claims he quit without any professional help, is hitting the bottle again.
An increasing number of mainstream media outlets, including Newsweek, The Washington Post and the New York Daily News recently confirmed our earlier reports about Bush's temper tantrums.
"Bush usually reserves his celebrated temper for senior aides because he knows they can take it," the Daily News reported. "Lately, however, some junior staffers also have faced the boss's wrath."
"This is not some manager at McDonald's chewing out the help," a source with close ties to the White House told the paper. "This is the president of the United States, and it's not a pleasant sight."
Bush loyalists claim the President can survive his current spate of political troubles and emerge stronger than ever but an increasing number of White House aides express increasing doubt. Some even go so far as to speculate if the President's deteriorating mental condition can survive another three years in office.
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