In a New Administration, Some Brand-New Jobs?

Obama aide Valerie Jarrett said the next administration would have a White House chief of urban policy.
Obama aide Valerie Jarrett said the next administration would have a White House chief of urban policy. (By Alex Wong -- Associated Press)
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By Al Kamen
Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The intense competition among Democrats for top jobs in the incoming Obama administration assumes there are a fixed number of posts worth having. But it's looking likely that some extremely choice, even consequential, positions are going to be created by the new administration.

For example, plans are underway to establish a White House Office of Urban Policy to better coordinate federal efforts to help cities nationwide, said Valerie Jarrett, co-chairman of the Obama transition team.

"He's going to have a White House chief of urban policy," Jarrett told the Trotter Group, an organization of black columnists.

She declined to divulge names of potential choices for the post. "I'm sure there are plenty of candidates. It's a great job," Jarrett said.

Despite the many national problems the new administration will face, she continued, Barack Obama remains committed to earlier pledges to establish such an office. "Because he began as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, he understands [that] the local level is really where you can impact change and that local government can play a vital role as we try to jump-start our economy," she said.

Meanwhile, there's chatter that, if the administration decides to create the position of environmental czar, former Environmental Protection Agency chief Carol Browner would be a logical choice. So would former energy czar Bill Richardson, though he is said to prefer the State Department.

Send those résumés.

An Uncomfortable State of Affairs

Speaking of secretary of state, it's looking increasingly like Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) may get the nod for that post, a possibility that is driving some Senate Democrats to distraction. No, not that they oppose Kerry. Not at all.

The problem is that the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), has picked up a new job. The second-ranking Democrat, Sen. Christopher Dodd (Conn.), has announced that he's staying on as head of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, what with all the troubles in the industry these days.

Well, no problem, Kerry can take . . . oh, wait. So he's going to the State Department?

That means, yes indeed, next in line to chair the committee is Sen. Russ Feingold (Wis.), who tends to approach foreign policy and related matters from, let's say, a leftward direction. Feingold was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act and is the leading advocate of cutting and running out of Iraq. That means the Obama administration, in addition to getting smacked around from the right on foreign policy matters, could find itself hammered from the left as well.

Can't wait.

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