Skinner Begins White House Job With Pep Talk
Samuel K. Skinner quietly took over as President Bush’s chief of staff on Monday and delivered a pep talk encouraging White House workers to be loyal team players.
Skinner, a pragmatic moderate who served as transportation secretary the last three years, replaced John H. Sununu, who had alienated many people with his combative style.
Sununu took up residence in the Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House. He will serve as a special counselor to the President for the next 2 1/2 months and then leave the Administration.
On his first day, Skinner presided over a meeting of senior staff aides and joined Bush at his daily intelligence briefing.
Describing the staff meeting, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said: “Sam was very enthusiastic and he defined a very orderly process for supporting the President.”
One senior official described Skinner’s remarks to the staff as a “rah-rah” speech that put off some veterans of the Bush White House.
“Some liked it. Others thought it was a little patronizing,” said the official, who declined to be identified.
One official said White House staffers were being assured that Skinner did not plan an immediate shake-up of personnel. However, Skinner has tapped an old friend and businessman, Eugene R. Croisant, to conduct a review of White House operations and staffing.
In a private ceremony witnessed by Bush, Skinner was sworn in as a commissioned officer for his new post by a longtime friend, U.S. District Judge Joel M. Flaum of Chicago, with whom he once served as a U.S. attorney.
Also present were Skinner’s wife, Mary Jacobs (Honey) Skinner, two sons, Thomas and Steven, and former Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson and his wife, Jayne. Sununu did not attend.