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After Staff Exodus, Who Will Work in a Second Obama White House?

After Staff Exodus, Who Will Work in a Second Obama White House?

If President Barack Obama wins re-election in November, who will return with him to the White House? Mitt Romney has a transition team already in place, searching inside and outside the Beltway for the best talent a Republican administration can muster to fix the economy. But Obama’s all-stars have already left him–some for political jobs, some for corporate gigs, and some for teaching posts. He has precious little talent left to recruit.

That is a critical issue as the two candidates compete for the job of turning the country around. And Obama is at a distinct disadvantage–not just because he failed to get the economy moving, not just because he made the federal budget deficit worse than it has ever been, but because he has lost the assistance and advice of the “dream team” that accompanied him to Washington. Here are some of those who are leaving, or have left: 

Peter Orzsag – the “whiz kid” who led Obama’s Office of Management and Budget in the stimulus years is now Vice Chairman of Global Banking at bailed-out Citigroup.

Christina Romer – the economics guru who made the infamous promise that the jobless rate would stay below 8% with the stimulus is back to her Berkeley teaching job.

Robert Gibbs – the White House spokesman left for the private sector and then for the Obama campaign, where he is making much more money for dishing out the same spin.

Larry Summers – the former Secretary of the Treasury warned the White House about investing in “green jobs” and soon found himself frozen out, leaving after the 2010 loss.

Rahm Emanuel – the former White House chief of staff bailed on his boss before the disastrous midterm elections to make a successful run of his own for Mayor of Chicago.

Bill Daley – In a Chicago trade, the business-friendly Daley was brought in to replace Emanuel when his brother Richard stepped down as mayor. He lasted about a year.

Hillary Clinton – the Secretary of State has indicated that she only plans to serve one term, and will probably lay low for two years before mounting a presidential run in 2016.

Cass Sunstein – the soft-spoken professor was much-maligned by many conservatives for his radical positions on the constitution and regulation. He returned to Harvard Law.

Steven Rattner – the former auto bailout czar left, only to be trotted out–despite his own ethics problems–to attack Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital (after defending it).

With some of the best and brightest gone, and no hope of return, who among Obama’s appointees is likeliest to remain on his staff if and when he returns to office in January?

Valerie Jarrett – the consummate gatekeeper, who many blame for the departure of so much talent from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, will not leave her patron’s side. 

Jacob Lew – the current White House chief of staff knows his job well: keep your head down. Unless you’re talking to Republicans–in which case, compromise on nothing.

Samantha Power – though husband Sunstein has left, Power has remained to serve on the president’s National Security Council, and could well be due for a UN promotion.

Eric Holder – the man who has politicized and racialized the Department of Justice to an unheard-of extent will likely return, Fast and Furious scandal notwithstanding.

Susan Rice – the Ambassador to the UN who has long coveted the Secretary of State position will finally have her chance at settling into Turtle Bay if Obama returns to office.

Not the most impressive bunch–and given the short tenure of many of Obama’s past advisers, the White House will likely struggle to attract the best talent Democrats have to offer. Look for it to bring out the “C” and “D” teams from the institutional left–the hard-left policy squad from the universities, think tanks and party hierarchy who were passed over last time. 

Wouldn’t it better to start with a fresh “A” team from the other side?


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