Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Whither Obama?...

A capable staff can make or break even the most popular and successful politician.  Instant messaging via tweets and emails means that elected officials can keep their base constantly informed about crucial votes and positions taken and also about requests for specific needed support.  I get a pile of political emails every day but they come primarily from issue-oriented organizations, such as NOW or the Women’s Media Center, not usually from specific politicians.
The exception and often the most interesting political emails I receive are from Kirsten Gillibrand, my state’s junior Senator.  Throughout the campaign to repeal DADT and to pass the bill for medical insurance for 9/11’s first responders, Gillibrand’s staff kept her constituents up to date and involved, often asking for a signature on a petition.  I was once so impressed that I wrote a short note of appreciation. I received a personal thank-you back within minutes and it was not yet 8:00 a.m.   Now that is superb and dedicated staff work!
Speaking of staff work, the President is now involved in reshaping his own.  Rahm Emanuel has left to run for mayor of Chicago, (!) leaving open the Chief of Staff position.  Howard Fineman at Huffpost lists for us the men (of course) who appear to be the leading contenders for the job.  [Here]  Top of Fineman’s list is the current Acting Chief of Staff Pete Rouse.  
Rouse, interestingly, was Chief of Staff for Tom Daschle when Daschle was a Senate Democratic leader.  When Daschle was not reelected in 2004, Rouse was persuaded to join the freshman Senator Barack Obama.  Rouse then followed Obama to the White House as a staff member.  Pete Rouse has been in Washington for 30 years and knows the ropes.
Fineman wrote of Rouse that: [Here
..he has won plaudits for his touch, his calm demeanor and his loyalty.  But he is in his mid-60s and is not considered a top-flight manager.”
(May I also add that Rouse is not from Chicago?)
The new player and top possiblity is Bill Daley.  Does the name have a familiar ring?  It should.  He is the younger brother of retiring Chicago mayor, Richard Daley.  (Yes, the same position that Emanuel currently has his eyes on.)  Rahm and Bill Daley are close.  Daley is currently a top official at J.P.Morgan Chase and is a long-time friend of Joe Biden.  
Daley was Clinton’s Secretary of Commerce and knows all the key Democratic players.  His background on Wall Street would be a plus for Obama’s current flirtation with the business community.  The downside is that he is not a “detail person” and would need helpers...
The third person talked about is Tom Daschle.  He was thought to be Obama’s original choice for Chief of Staff but questions were raised about some of his business connections and some activities of his very active lobbyist wife.  
Surprisingly, the fourth person mentioned is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who is said to be a good manager, although he certainly could have handled the Shirley Sherrod mess with more finesse.  But we must remember that Vilsack is a former (and popular) Iowa governor and that Obama is going to need all the help he can get in 2012.
So there we have the current line-up.  David Dayen at FDL summed up the staffing situation: [Here]
Essentially, such a move [chosing Daley as C of S] would signal a basic contentment with the Chicago group that has been the senior leadership at the White House, from David Axelrod to Valerie Jarrett to Emanuel. So if you think they have been doing just fine and want that consistency to continue, Bill Daley’s your man.”
Gulp.  Who’s your pick?...

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