Obama's reshuffle: More outsiders, please
The shuffling of senior staff that Obama is currently weighing as he heads into the re-election season of his presidency is not, despite what the pundits may be wagging about this week, really breaking news. Yes, Gibbs may be leaving, but most press secretaries only last a couple of years. There may be a lot more people leaving posts than the administration had initially let on, but most presidencies have a big reshuffle midway through their first term. All in all, the fact that people in the administration are changing jobs is not really all that notable.
Except for one thing. The midterm elections were a huge warning sign for the president--it's hard to argue that the landslide of Congressional wins for Republicans was anything but a referendum, at least in part, on the president's first two years. And as a result, it makes sense to expect that if a major shuffling is going to happen, many of the people Obama would bring in would be new.
Not so, apparently. While there may be surprises and a few exceptions (such as former commerce secretary William Daley, who is on the short list for chief of staff), most of the candidates speculated to be under consideration are already insiders. Most of the open jobs, report the Post's Anne Kornblut and Scott Wilson, are expected to be filled by existing administration officials or campaign loyalists.
Whether or not that's a problem depends on your political views, of course, and your take on the administration's success. But it's hard to argue that the administration couldn't use more new blood after such a stinging defeat in November. It will be difficult for anyone who was on the inside--even if in a completely different job--to objectively view the causes that led to the "shellacking," as Obama called it, he received in December.
While Daley is a notable exception, several other jobs are expected to be filled with insiders. Senior adviser David Axelrod will depart, with campaign manager David Plouffe taking on a similar role. Gibbs' most-discussed replacements are Jay Carney and Bill Burton, both administration staffers now. Energy czar Carol Browner and legislative affairs director Phil Schiliro, both insiders today, are talked about as new deputy chiefs of staff.
That doesn't mean Obama should run out and replace his senior staff full scale with total outsiders. Insiders help with institutional memory, already know the culture and political sensitivities, and have a strong basis of trust that can enable faster decision-making, more effective meetings and more candid discussions. It is natural for Obama to turn to the people he knows and trusts for many of these critical positions.
But whether or not it will provide the change the public seems to desire is an open question. Companies with major strategic problems tend to bolster their executive ranks with outside expertise, whether as employees or consultants. Coaches coming off of losing seasons are expected to bring in new assistants who can overhaul problem areas. For Obama, too, a bigger mix of inside and outside candidates in his major reshuffle could go a long way toward balancing frank assessments and bold new ideas with institutional knowledge and trust.
January 5, 2011; 12:59 PM ET |
Federal government leadership
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