Bowles Bows Out

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From the moment he became White House chief of staff, Erskine Bowles has had his eye on the exit. This week he expects finally to depart for home and maybe a political career in North Carolina. "As soon as Congress is gone, he's gone," says a White House official. Bowles, credited with bringing order to a chaotic operation and setting a less partisan tone with Republicans, wanted to leave last January, but President Clinton implored him to stay. The decision is probably one Bowles has at times regretted: Only days after he announced that he would stay, the Lewinsky scandal broke.

Special Report Although Bowles has pointedly kept himself out of that crisis -- last month he said that until the matter reached Congress, "I hadn't spent two minutes a week on it" -- the problem has consumed a year that Bowles had hoped would be spent consolidating the administration's accomplishments. Because Bowles had neither the inclination nor the temperament for scandal control, that job fell to Bowles' deputy, John Podesta, who is the leading contender for Bowles' post -- which says a lot about what the President expects will dominate his remaining time in office.