'Loyal Soldier' Leads White House Staff
For President George W. Bush's White House chief of staff, public service has been a lifelong passion.
Andrew H. Card Jr., a New England Republican with a long history of political participation, has quickly worked his way up through life, going from a managerial position at McDonald's during college to the Mass. State Legislature to former President George H.W. Bush's Cabinet.
And now, Card stands at the front of the American political stage, orchestrating the inner workings of the Bush White House on a daily basis as the younger Bush's chief of staff.
Known for his quiet, disciplined and fiercely loyal style, Card works tirelessly to manage the day-to-day affairs of the Bush administration, while solidifying close ties to the Bush family that have lasted through most of his political career.
But as he delves deeper into the political world, friends say today's Kennedy School of Government Class Day speaker is still the same person they have always known, unchanged by the daily grind of the Washington political scene.
Home Grown Politico
Born on May 10, 1947 in the small town of Holbrook, Mass., the political world has always been a part of Card's life. His father was active in local politics, and Card, inspired by his grandmother's advice to get involved, began his political career by attending public meetings and knocking on doors for political campaigns--while still in elementary school. Currently, three of Card's siblings are involved in political service.
"We were inculcated with a sense of responsibility to be involved in politics," Card tells The Crimson. "I grew up believing it was the right thing to do."
After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a degree in engineering in 1971, Card decided that public service was his true calling. And after one unsuccessful run, he was able to secure a seat in the Mass. state legislature in 1975.
As a Republican in a mostly Democratic state, Card had to work in a bipartisan fashion, building relationships with officials on both sides of the political aisle while supporting moderate positions, including abortion rights.
Close friend and Holbrook native George Hagerty, the president of Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire, says Card's political abilities allowed him to overcome his party's minority status in New England.
"In a strongly Democratic area, it was a leap of faith to vote for a Republican, but we all voted for Andy," Hagerty says. "It shows the type of power he had to show people he cared about them."
Card worked closely with Democratic representative Phillip W. Johnston in efforts to reform Mass. politics, helping to end corruption in state construction projects.
"I work with people who want to get things done," Card says of his bipartisan attitude. "I don't worry about party labels or personal ideology."
In 1982, Card decided to take his stab at statewide politics, running for the Republican nomination for Mass. governor.
Former Mass. Governor A. Paul Cellucci--who was recently named an ambassador to Canada by the Bush administration--served in the state legislature at the same time as Card, and was Card's campaign manager in the failed bid.
"He was very idealistic and determined to make state government smaller," Cellucci says. "He conducted himself very well."
Climbing The Political Ladder
But while local politics had been Card's focus for most of his early life, the draw of national politics soon took its hold over Card in time for the 1980 presidential campaign.
In 1979, Card joined Cellucci in support of George H.W. Bush in his run for the Republican presidential nomination.
At the beginning of the campaign season, Card had sent letters to all of the major Republican candidates, asking to meet with them. He met with seven, and says he liked Bush the most.
"He spoke about specific issues," Card says of his meeting with Bush. "He also had great people skills and was very kind to all of my staff, from the aides to the people answering the phones."
So with his choice made, Card and Cellucci began volunteering for Bush, serving as his personal drivers in New Hampshire during the 1980 campaign.
"We drove him around everywhere, from campaign stop to campaign stop," Cellucci says.
And while Ronald Reagan won the all-important New Hampshire primary, with the campaigning of state legislators like Card and Cellucci, Bush was able to win the Mass. primary easily, setting him up for the vice presidential nomination.
"We were the core of the Bush campaign in Massachusetts," Cellucci says.
Once Bush was elected vice president, he secured Card an appointment in the Reagan White House, where Card served as a national liaison to elected state officials.
And in 1988, after two terms in the Reagan administration, Card once again joined the Bush campaign for the presidency, this time managing his victory in the New Hampshire primary, in which Bush edged out then-Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole.
With the Republican nomination secured, Card used his knowledge of Mass. politics against fellow Bay State politician Michael Dukakis, uncovering the highly controversial Willie Horton issue, which helped doom Dukakis's run for the White House.
Card was rewarded for his service during the campaign with an appointment to the Bush White House, where he became deputy chief of staff under John Sununu, helping to coordinate the daily affairs of the president.
The position allowed Card to hone his managerial skills, as he quietly worked behind the scenes.
"He's one of the people who made the trains run on time," Cellucci says of Card's time in the elder Bush's administration.
And by the end of the Bush presidency, Card was given an official Cabinet position, with Bush naming Card as Secretary of Transportation for the administration's final year.
Former Transportation Secretary Samuel K. Skinner says Card's ability to work with people on both the local and national level made him an attractive candidate.
"We already had a strong, experienced staff in the department," says Skinner, who replaced Sununu. "What we needed was someone with interpersonal relations who could work with those on Capitol Hill, in the White House and in state and local government."
His loyal work for the Bush administration also made him an easy choice.
"Andy is one of this town's best kept secrets, one of the best liked, most well respected members of the team," said former President Bush when naming Card to the Cabinet position. "You know the saying, 'Nice guys finish last'? Well, Leo Durocher never met Andy Card."
A Beltway Player
After Bush was defeated in the 1992 presidential election, Card was put in charge of helping to transition the new Clinton administration into the White House. After deciding not to run for public office, he then used his experience in the transportation department to land a lucrative position as a top lobbyist for the automobile industry.
Card served as CEO and president of the American Automobile Manufacturer's Association, and then as the vice president of intergovernmental affairs for General Motors.
But George W. Bush's run for the White House last year brought Card back to the political scene. Card says the younger Bush's personal leadership qualities drew him to the campaign.
"He earned my support independent of my support for his dad," Card says. "He's a decisive person who has a vision for what he wants to get done. He's also a person of great integrity."
Card's ties to the Republican Party and the Bush family secured him the job of running the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, which he followed up by helping then-Gov. Bush prepare for the presidential debates against Vice President Al Gore '69.
At the end of the turbulent election, Card was tapped as the next White House chief of staff, an offer he says he had not expected.
"I never expected to work in the administration," Card says. "[But] it's not exactly a position you interview for."
But friends and colleagues of Card say his personal characteristics made him ideal for the position.
"I thought he was the perfect person for the job," Hagerty says. "He takes a balanced approach to things, and has a passion for serving others."
Friends say Card's straightforward nature was key to his selection.
"One thing about Andy is he's a straight-shooter," Cellucci says. "I feel good knowing he's the chief of staff, because if he thinks President Bush is doing something wrong, he'll tell him."
"You can always count on what he says, and that he won't deviate from it," Hagerty adds.
And similar to his Cabinet nomination, Card's close relationship and loyalty to the Bush family made him a natural pick.
"The chief of staff is someone you have to feel comfortable with and that you can rely on, and that's why the president chose Andy Card," Cellucci says.
"He's a loyal soldier, which is why the Bush family trusts him," former chief of staff Skinner says. "He's the ultimate team player."
Running The West Wing
With the first hundred days of the Bush administration completed, Card has established himself as a disciplined manager of the White House, forming a troika with senior adviser Karl Rove and counselor Karen Hughes to serve the president.
"I've seen first-hand how much the president relies on him," Cellucci says of Card's coordination of the president's daily affairs.
Card works tirelessly to run a tight ship at the White House, arriving there every morning at 6:15 a.m. and often not leaving until 10 p.m.
And every minute is considered valuable to Card--he has streamlined White House staff meetings, allowing less time to be spent on debate between advisers.
"He takes his job very seriously," Hagerty says. "He's clearly in his element in this position."
Card says he has focused on building a strong and loyal staff around him, so that the White House will function more efficiently.
"I try to pick good people, those who are not interested in serving themselves, but in serving their country," Card says. "I don't care as much about personality as I do about commitment."
Card says he feels confident about the work the administration has done in its first months, citing the passage of a tax cut "in record time" as a prime example.
"I think we've exceeded expectations, and pushed forward with a lot of the top priorities from the campaign," he says.
But with the White House pushing quickly on its campaign agenda, the first months of the administration have not all been smooth sailing.
The defection of Sen. James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.) from the Republican Party caused some to criticize Bush's advisers for controlling the White House agenda too much, playing more to conservatives than the moderate wing of the Party.
"The White House troika...must take a major portion of the blame for the defection and must assume a major portion of the responsibility for getting Mr. Bush back to the center," wrote The New York Times editorial board on the day after Jefford's announcement. "Fundamentally, they have talked an excellent game in preaching unity, bipartisanship and inclusiveness but have handled Congress in a rough, even presumptuous manner."
Card responded by taking responsibility for the fact that the White House had not known sooner about Jefford's plans, demonstrating his continued loyalty to the Bush family in his current position.
"I feel I should have done a better job for the president," Card told The New York Times.
But despite the setback, Card says he thinks the administration has worked well it its early stages.
"Any time you are leading a government with a 50-50 split, you are going to be challenged," Card says.
And he dismisses claims that the Bush administration has focused too much on the conservative wing of the Republican Party.
"The president doesn't court anyone," Card says. "He campaigned on the priorities of the country, and he's put forward an agenda that continues the promises he made to the nation."
And while Card may ruffle a few feathers with his extreme discipline and conservative positions, past colleagues and friends say his low-key and friendly personality give him a softer edge.
"He's beloved by the people who work for him," Skinner says. "He gets along with everybody."
And those who have remained close to him during his rise through politics say his ego has remained in check, with Card not allowing his success to change his outlook.
"He's the one person in D.C. who's never changed," Hagerty says. "He's the same person he was in Holbrook, Mass."
--Staff writer Imtiyaz H. Delawala can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.