Where the ‘new’ Team Obama will be

December 12, 2013
aff to President Bill Clinton and a trusted Democratic operative, will join the White House staff as a senior counselor to President Barack Obama's new senior counselor, John Podesta. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison)
President Obama’s new senior counselor, John Podesta. (Eric Jamison/AP)

Proximity is power, it is said. The closer to the Oval Office, the more powerful you are. And when a beleaguered, second-term president brings in some heavyweights to help his administration, location counts.

That’s less true when the “new” aides are Obama veterans like former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, who ran the Obama 2008 transition, and former Obama legislative affairs chief Phil Schiliro, who’s  coming back from Santa Fe to help out for a few months on health care matters.

Schiliro will be getting a fine office — one of the ones he used to have in this administration, and one reportedly once inhabited by Don Rumsfeld in Nixon days — on the second floor of the West Wing.

Podesta, a “senior counselor” with a very broad portfolio as environment, overall policy and general strategerizer, is said to be staying for a year. He could benefit from an office closer to the action.

Hey! Waddaya know? Got one right here. He can take senior counselor Pete Rouse’s soon-to-be-vacant office, right across from Podesta’s old corner office when he was President Clinton’s chief of staff during the last couple years of that administration. It’s just steps down the hall from the Oval.

Podesta’s arrival has led to chatter about Chief of Staff Denis McDonough’s star maybe dimming in the Obama firmament. White House folks are insisting that’s not so. Bringing in Center for American Progress founder Podesta, more-or-less affectionately nicknamed “Skippy” on certain days during the Clinton years, was even said to be a McDonough initiative under the reorganization plans the White House has been working on.

His arrival also means the Obama presidential library will be inundated — just as the Clinton presidential library in Little Rock has been — with Freedom of Information Requests such as this one  for: “e-mails to and from John Podesta, containing the words either, X-Files or Area 51.”

Podesta was a renowned fan of the “X-Files” television show.  Asked in 2007 by our colleague Karen Tumulty about the FOIA jam,  Podesta, through a spokesperson, said of the FOIA requests, “the truth is out there.” That’s the show’s tag­line.

Unclear why Podesta is committed to stay for only one of  Obama’s remaining three years. Maybe he knows how hard Obama will make it for him to leave?  Maybe needs time to rest up for Hillary ’16?

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
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Al Kamen · December 9, 2013