IT’S NOT THE STAFF….The New Republic has a tongue-in-cheek item in the current issue about whom the president can bring in to “save” his White House. Most of the piece is humorous, but the point of the TNR article is worth considering in more detail.

Ever since the venerable Washington fixer Clark Clifford came to the rescue of a White House imperiled by Vietnam in 1968, presidents in trouble have turned to a unique political breed: the wise man. The wise man is a consummate Washington insider, a redwood towering above the daily political fray — a weathered veteran of past administrations and myriad crises, with a reputation for high integrity and deep sagacity. He is a revered elder who emerges from the sidelines (often a white-shoe law or lobbying firm) when the going gets tough to pen op-eds and appear on “Meet the Press,” holding together the vital center and dispensing bromides about governance and the national interest. With pundits calling for a shake-up at the White House, The New Republic has surveyed the field of political elders who might yet save George W. Bush’s beleaguered administration.

The TNR field includes some of the Republicans’ old guard (James Baker and Howard Baker), a couple of highly capable Dems (Leon Panetta and Sam Nunn), a controversial journalist (Bob Woodward), and even Deepak Chopra, whom TNR touts as someone who could give Bush “a new life-giving paradigm of mind-body-spirit healing.” Chances are, none of them will be taking over the West Wing anytime soon.

But the notion that sweeping staff changes are needed to “save” Bush’s presidency is a common sentiment. Joe Klein recently made the argument in Time, three former White House chiefs of staff said the same thing on Meet the Press a few weeks ago, and talking heads routinely repeat the suggestion, especially after the Scooter Libby indictment.

It’s not this is bad advice; it’s that the guidance fails to appreciate the real problem. I don’t doubt that Bush could use a wise and steady hand right about now, but I doubt very much the president would appreciate the counsel.

Shortly after the Hurricane Katrina debacle, we began to understand the atmosphere of ignorance that dominates the White House.

It’s a standing joke among the president’s top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States…. Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty.

It doesn’t matter whom Bush hires if he only listens to those who tell him what he wants to hear.

A couple of months ago, Time talked to a “youngish” White House aide, described as a Bush favorite, who talked a bit about the president’s attitude.

“The first time I told him he was wrong, he started yelling at me,” the aide recalled about a session during the first term. “Then I showed him where he was wrong, and he said, ‘All right. I understand. Good job.’ He patted me on the shoulder. I went and had dry heaves in the bathroom.”

This is exactly why I think all this talk about “a fresh team” is off-base. If Rove, Card, and Bartlett were replaced, what, exactly, would change with a 21st century version of Baker, Duberstein, and Carlucci if the president insists on uniform agreement?

It was Bush’s choice to surround himself with yes-men. It was Bush’s choice to tell those around him to tell shield him from news he may not like. It was Bush’s choice to embrace “Bubble Boy” policies that expose him to pre-screened sycophants at public events.

I like the idea of a new team, but the need for “new leadership” starts with the one White House staffer who can’t be fired — the one in the Oval Office.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.