Shaun Donovan may get a new seat in Obama officials’ musical chairs

Reporter

The news that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan is moving to head the Office of Management and Budget took Washington by surprise — but perhaps it shouldn’t have. Apparently the job switch has been in the works for years.

We’re hearing from inside the Obama administration that Donovan was first considered for the job in 2010, after Peter Orszag stepped down. Larry Summers, who was then at the helm of the National Economic Council, was pulling for him behind the scenes. Donovan even formally interviewed for the job, but it went to Jack Lew, who is now the treasury secretary.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop. View Archive

The high-level musical chairs, with Donovan replacing OMB Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who is taking over for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, squares with President Obama’s style of surrounding himself with people with whom he has established ties.

Donovan was one of a handful of top administration officials who had been in the same job since the start of Obama’s presidency.

There is also some chatter that Donovan could someday run for public office in New York, his home state. Perhaps for mayor of New York City. Donovan would not be the first New Yorker to make the leap from HUD secretary to holder of elective office. Gov. Andrew Cuomo was President Bill Clinton’s HUD secretary.

The running Podestas

Obama counselor John Podesta ran in Sunday’s 35th NCB Capitol Hill Classic 10K, an annual fundraiser to benefit the Capitol Hill Cluster School, a D.C. public school with more than 1,000 students.

Podesta, an avid runner, posted an exceptionally respectable time of 51:09 (net time 50:00) to place 475th out of 2,675 runners. He came in first in the 65-and-over set, beating the second-place finisher by almost four minutes.

Seems he wasn’t the only Podesta running on Sunday. The D.C. race has a tie-in race with Camp Phoenix in Kabul, where another Podesta, Air Force Capt. Gabe Podesta, who’s in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, bested his father by one minute and 21 seconds.

Flowers from the veep

Vice President Biden personally picked out the red-white-and-blue corsage he had sent to a Connecticut girl who asked him to her high school prom.

More than six months before the dance, the teenager mailed the vice president a hand-written note asking him to escort her to the rite-of-passage dance, the Hartford Courant reported Monday.

“I am inviting you so far in advance because I’m sure many 17-year-old girls send you prom invitations, and I had to beat them to it. I could only tolerate a high school dance if I was to be escorted by the most delightful man in America,” wrote Talia Maselli, now 18. She then joked that if rejected she’d invite House Speaker John Boehner, adding: “And we can’t have that now can we.”

The day before the dance, which Maselli had decided not to attend, a package arrived at her home with a wrist corsage and a handwritten note from the second most powerful man in America: “I am flattered, but my schedule will not permit me to be in Connecticut on Friday evening. But I hope you will accept this corsage and enjoy your prom as much as I did mine.”

Biden’s office told the Courant that the vice president had picked out the patriotic floral arrangement himself. He invited Maselli to come to Washington to meet him at the White House, a trip she is planning with her family this summer.

Joe Biden, teen heartthrob?

What’s in a name?

Tweeting deep thoughts in 140 characters is easy. Getting just the right title for a book is really, really hard. You have just a few words to encapsulate years of effort, draw in the casual browser, pique interest. It can take weeks of effort.

And since people do indeed judge books by their covers, it’s often a critical decision and everyone weighs in: publishers, editors, agents, spouses, neighbors and in-laws. (Even the title “In the Loop” was picked after lengthy discussions — and over our bitter objections.)

But sometimes authors prevail — often to the good.

Take, for example, acclaimed syndicated political columnist Jules Witcover, who’s written 14 books on American politics and history and co-authored another five. He’s also written excellent biographies of two vice presidents, Spiro Agnew and Joe Biden.

But when we got a review copy of his latest book, due out in the fall, the title was printed on a strip of white paper glued to the cover. It said “The American Vice Presidency.” The title on the spine says “America’s Vice Presidents.” So it seemed there had been some debate.

Indeed there had, said Matt Litts, a spokesman for publisher Smithsonian Books. Witcover “didn’t really like the original title,” Litts said. A representative for giant bookstore chain Barnes & Noble, however, thought “America’s Vice Presidents” was a fine title, Litts said. “But Jules is the man, and it’s his book,” Litts continued.

Litts thought the two titles were pretty much the same. But we’re with Witcover on this. The old title sounds like it’s a listing of past vice presidents. The new one connotes a serious look at the changing vice presidency. We haven’t read it yet, but colleagues who received the review copy say the new title better reflects an excellent book on the evolving nature of that once-disparaged job.

— With Colby Itkowitz

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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