WASHINGTON -- Joshua B. Bolten, President Bush's new chief of staff, said yesterday it was time to ''refresh and re-energize the team," and he told senior White House aides who might be thinking about quitting this year to go ahead and leave now.
Taking charge in a time of crisis, with Bush's poll ratings at their lowest point and Republicans anxious about the November elections, Bolten laid down his pointed directive at his first meeting with top presidential aides.
He did not ask for anyone's resignation, and none of the senior aides stepped forward to say they would go, White House press secretary Scott McClellan reported later. But Bolten has Bush's full authority to make changes to the president's staff, and McClellan said he would expect announcements soon.
One of the first jobs to be filled is that of budget director -- the position Bolten left to become chief of staff. The job of domestic policy adviser at the White House is open as well. Further changes are clearly on the horizon, and Bolten gave top aides the option of leaving.
''He wanted to make sure he had the team in place that is going to be here for a minimum of the remainder of the year," McClellan said. ''And he said if people are thinking about leaving, that now is the time to come to such a decision."
Bolten told the staff that he was assuming his new job at a challenging time when the United States was engaged in a war on terrorism. With US casualties rising in Iraq, Bush faces sagging public support, Republican angst about the midterm election, and struggles with a Congress that has been resistant to some of his top priorities.
''Josh talked about how this is a time to refresh and re-energize the team and for all of us to renew our commitment as we go forward," McClellan said. Republicans outside the White House say they expect changes in Bush's lobbying staff and perhaps in the communications office, as well as in the Cabinet.
Bolten is Bush's second chief of staff. Andrew H. Card Jr., a Holbrook native, left the post Friday after serving more than five years.