Bald spin-doctor is a tonic for Clinton: The President's new press chief has won over the media and is restoring the White House image

'A FEW more fat, old, bald men wouldn't hurt,' was the advice of Marlin Fitzwater when asked last month how a floundering White House might get its act together. George Bush's affable and much- missed press secretary would be the first to admit the prescription was a self-protrait. Bill Clinton, though, was listening. A day or two later he made David Gergen his counsellor. He has hardly looked back.

It may be a coincidence, but calamities have been replaced by at least the semblance of success. Congressional committees are suddenly approving Clinton proposals, from cutting the deficit and campaign finance reform to community service as a means for impecunious college students to pay tuition fees. The President's first Supreme Court nominee seems set for confirmation by acclaim.

To call Mr Gergen bald, old and fat is a mite unfair. Plump, middle-aged and thinning on top would be more accurate. But a carping Washington establishment is delighted. Its advice has been heeded. The man summoned to the colours is one of their own. No Arkansas outsider he; Mr Gergen is a 24-carat 'inside-the-Beltway' wise man, at 51 the embodiment of solid maturity and stalwart of a thousand television talkshows.

His previous employment in the Republican White House of Nixon, Ford and Reagan did raise eyebrows. But Mr Gergen dislikes labels. He is, he says, merely a whisker to the right of centre. But for a President who was being branded a closet liberal, his arrival was a deliberate symbol of the sprint back to the middle ground.

Not every omen was auspicious. Mr Gergen uncannily duplicates many of Mr Clinton's own faults. His workstyle is undisciplined and his schedule invariably runs late. But he knows how the system works. If his appointment is a success, its results will be a more professional White House and, just possibly, an ability to win over a handful of Republican moderates on Capitol Hill in crucial votes. But there has already been one visible and important dividend: improved relations with the press.

A first consequence of the shake-up was the removal of the hapless George Stephanopoulos as communications director. White House briefings are no longer siege warfare. A President who shunned press conferences last week held two in 48 hours and even had his tormentors in for a Sunday evening barbecue. To habitues, the fingerprints of Mr Gergen, spin-doctor supreme, were everywhere.

And in the West Wing, the staff revolution continues. Yesterday brought word of the demotion of the 33-year-old political director Rahm Emmanuel, whose main achievement, like Mr Stephanopoulos, had been to offend those he was supposed to win over. Whether David Gergen had anything to do with this change is unknown. But score another one for the fat, old, bald men.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas