Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Obama's next chief of staff

By Richard K. Barry

Bloomberg is reporting that President Obama is close to naming Denis McDonough, the deputy national security advisory, as his fifth chief of staff. They say the announcement could come as early as next week. 

If true, McDonough would replace Jack Lew, who Obama tapped to be his next Treasury secretary. 

According to Bill Burton, Obama's former deputy press secretary:

Denis has been one of the people the president has most trusted and depended on. He is extraordinarily talented, extremely intelligent and unbelievably loyal in a town where loyalty is not always rewarded.

The word "trust" comes up prominently in a profile of McDonough in This Week. They say that one of the most important things to know about him is "that the president trusts him more than just about any advisor."

They conclude their analysis with this:

So what, the Beltway asks, does his (probable) selection of McDonough mean about Obama? It simply means... that he wants a smart executor in the job of chief of staff, someone whose judgment he trusts and someone he can count on to get the job done. McDonough is quite intelligent and probably knows more about domestic policy than most of the reporters who write that he has no domestic policy experience, but Obama is not looking for a chief of staff who knows about domestic policy. His second term will be one where the legislative and executive accomplishments of the first term will need to be implemented, taken through Congress, through the rule-making process, through the media, through official Washington. McDonough is well-suited to manage that task.

That's good. On the other hand, National Journal notes that it will surely "reinforce criticism -- brought up at a news conference on Monday -- that Obama's governing style is too insular." They say that critics have suggested "Obama needs to do more to reach out to important constituencies, including Congress and the business community."

I don't know. I'm big on the fact that Obama won the election and if having a chief of staff who is smart, tough, and loyal will help him implement his agenda in his second term, I'm all for it. As Obama recently said when talking about dealing with House Republicans, being nice doesn't really do that much good. As USA Today reported a few days ago:

The president said he and first lady Michelle Obama treat Republicans well at the congressional picnic and other White House events, "but it doesn't prevent them from going onto the floor of the House and blasting me for being 'a big-spending socialist.'"

That's right, Mr. President, play hardball. To hell with them. And saddle up with those who give you the best chance to succeed. Republicans have no interest in "nice."

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