Shake-up at White House continues

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ANOTHER piece of a major staff shake-up at the White House and Democratic Party fell into place yesterday, as President Bill Clinton named a senior appeals judge and former Illinois congressman as White House Counsel to succeed Lloyd Cutler, due to step down some time next month.

At 68, Judge Abner Mikva is eight years younger than Mr Cutler, brought in last March on a temporary basis primarily to cope with the Whitewater affair. But the two are cut from very much the same cloth. Both are experienced, highly regarded, and possessed of the political acumen which many of Mr Clinton's youthful early appointees so conspicuously lacked.

That lesson has only been underlined by the downfall of David Wilhelm, 37, the party chairman and manager of the 1992 Clinton campaign. During Mr Wilhelm's stewardship, the Democrats have suffered a string of electoral defeats, and face a drubbing in November's mid-term elections.

Officially, Mr Wilhelm announced this week, he will only step down after that vote. In fact the autumn campaign is to be handled by a former California congressman, Tony Coelho, named as a 'senior adviser' to the Democratic National Committee. He is a close ally of the new White House Chief of Staff, Leon Panetta.

The changes thus far bear the imprint of Mr Panetta, who is finally beginning to take an undisciplined White House in hand. He is cutting back the easy staff access to the President which has helped render the decision-making process so chaotic. Mr Clinton's schedule is being tightened, with the focus on set-piece addresses and formal press conferences.