Who Has Bush's Ear?

The Atlantic recently asked members of Congress about their perceptions of influence in the White House

Q: Right now, who is the most influential member of Bush’s inner circle on matters of foreign policy? Please rank Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Karl Rove, and Donald Rumsfeld. (85 votes)

Democrats (44)

CHENEY (101 points, 15 first-place votes)

“He’s number one now, but if Dick Cheney keeps shooting campaign contributors, he might drop down to number two.”

“If he wasn’t he’d be fired.”

“The president only seems to care about foreign policy as far as it serves American interests; he’s not thinking about the impact of U.S. actions within the larger global arena.”

ROVE (101 points, 13 first-place votes)

“No matter who may be the domestic- and foreign-policy legs connecting to the power base in the Bush administration, Karl Rove is always at the vertex of the triangle of power.”

“Rove, Rice, Rummy, and Remington [the American gun manufacturer]—in that order. I think the president would be wise to keep Cheney at a distance for a while … self-preservation is a strategy we can all get behind.”

RICE (99 points, 16 first-place votes)

“Rice has had two assets that Colin Powell lacked: a genuine bond with George Bush and the disintegration of the neoconservatives’ worldview.”

“Judging from the Bush administration’s extremely measured and nuanced responses to Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Hamas’s victory in the recent Palestinian elections, it would appear that the voice of diplomacy is edging out the usual overbearing, reactionary rhetoric.”

“Condoleezza Rice, the least-obvious source of administration failures.”

RUMSFELD (49 points, 0 first-place votes)

“At one point Rumsfeld was the most influential, but he is less than he used to be.”

Republicans (41)

RICE (123 points, 26 first-place votes)

“It is Condi Rice, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Karl Rove—in that order. Rice is a specialist, a loyalist, and the only star in the second term. She is also the only one of the Bush team who is likely to have a post-Bush public career. She is more valuable to the president than anyone else on his team. Cheney and Rumsfeld have lost too much public credibility to trump Rice, even in private. Rove is the master of domestic politics, not foreign policy. There is no evidence he has ever tried to move beyond his sphere—and he is too smart to try now.”

“Inside the president’s circle I would assume Rice. [But] as far as the ability to move Congress to [the administration’s] view … she spends so little time on the Hill that she squanders a natural opportunity for major influence. In the end, Vice President Cheney has the most influence on the Hill in foreign affairs for that very same reason: he’s accessible, and not only during White House initiatives.”

“Cheney began as the strongest but Condi has secured her place.”

“She unquestionably has the least baggage.”

CHENEY (80 points, 10 first-place votes)

“But, really, who knows?”

RUMSFELD (46 points, 2 first-place votes)

“[But] nobody is currently very influential. It is a disjointed mess!”

ROVE (39 points, 1 first-place vote)

No comments.

Don’t know (2 votes)

METHODOLOGY: In tallying the scores, a first-place vote was worth 4 points, a second-place vote was worth 3, a third-place vote was worth 2, and a fourth-place vote was worth 1. Not all participants ranked each of the four officials.

POLL PARTICIPANTS: The poll was sent to 111 members of Congress regularly polled by National Journal as "Congressional Insiders"—12 Senate Republicans, 46 House Republicans, 6 Senate Democrats, 46 House Democrats, and 1 Senate independent. (The vote of the Senate's lone independent is tallied as if he were a Democrat.)

GOP Congressional Insiders Queried: Sens. Lamar Alexander, George Allen, Jim Bunning, Conrad Burns, John Cornyn, Lindsey Graham, Johnny Isakson, Mel Martinez, Lisa Murkowski, Olympia Snowe, John Sununu, John Thune; Reps. Sherwood Boehlert, John Boehner, Kevin Brady, John Campbell, Chris Cannon, Eric Cantor, Michael Castle, Tom Cole, Tom Davis, John Doolittle, David Dreier, Phil English, Jeff Flake, Mark Foley, Bob Goodlatte, Melissa Hart, Doc Hastings, J.D. Hayworth, Pete Hoekstra, Bobby Jindal, Peter King, Jack Kingston, Mark Kirk, Jim Kolbe, Ray LaHood, Dan Lungren, Kenny Marchant, Jim McCrery, Patrick McHenry, Cathy McMorris, John Mica, Marilyn Musgrave, Sue Myrick, Mike Pence, Tom Price, Deborah Pryce, Adam Putnam, Dave Reichert, Tom Reynolds, Mike Rogers of Michigan, Paul Ryan, Pete Sessions, Christopher Shays, John Sweeney, Zach Wamp, and Joe Wilson.

Democratic Congressional Insiders Queried: Sens. Christopher Dodd, James Jeffords (independent), Edward Kennedy, Frank Lautenberg, Barbara Mikulski, Mark Pryor, Ken Salazar; Reps. Tom Allen, Tammy Baldwin, Melissa Bean, Xavier Becerra, Howard Berman, Marion Berry, Rick Boucher, Sherrod Brown, Michael Capuano, Ben Cardin, James Clyburn, Jim Cooper, Joseph Crowley, Elijah Cummings, Artur Davis, Jim Davis, Diana DeGette, Rosa DeLauro, Eliot Engel, Anna Eshoo, Sam Farr, Chaka Fattah, Bob Filner, Alcee Hastings, Mike Honda, Steve Israel, Jim Langevin, John Lewis, Zoe Lofgren, Nita Lowey, Ed Markey, Jim McDermott, Jim McGovern, Jim Moran, David Price, Silvestre Reyes, Jan Schakowsky, Jose Serrano, Adam Smith, John Spratt, Pete Stark, John Tanner, Ellen Tauscher, Bennie Thompson, Chris Van Hollen, and Henry Waxman.