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Focus on the Game, Not the Team Picture

By Al Kamen
Thursday, February 5, 2009

Okay, so President Obama says he "screwed up" on the Daschle nomination. After hitting the ground running on Jan. 20, the team went splat less than two weeks later.

But forget that. There's a beautiful spread of photos by the incomparable Annie Leibovitz in the new issue of Vanity Fair that's not to be missed.

Many of the usual suspects -- economic czar Lawrence H. "Why Does This Man Look So Depressed?" Summers, the enviro empress Carol M. Browner and the always fabulous Valerie Jarrett -- are there with the Cabinet and much of the Obama gang.

There's a fine shot of former health and human services nominee Thomas A. Daschle looking quite chipper. The photos, shot at Obama's transition headquarters, were taken over seven days, before, during and after the inaugural celebration.

Unlike the New York Times Magazine spread a couple of Sundays ago, which featured 52 individual, full-page portraits, the Vanity Fair portfolio was grouped by subject area. There's the enviro team, the economic team -- even the first lady's team -- but there was no sign of some major foreign policy players, such as top foreign policy aide Denis McDonough or national security adviser James L. Jones or CIA Director-designate Leon Panetta.

Could be the foreign policy folks were too busy with real work to take the time? Come to think of it, given the week he's having, maybe Obama might want to ban any more photo shoots -- others are surely in the works -- so people can focus on the tasks at hand?

Impressive Résumé, No Job

Some may think the faltering economy has focused pain only on the construction industry or Midwest autoworkers and other productive Americans. But it has affected most everyone, judging from Campbell Brown's interview with former attorney general Alberto "Fredo" Gonzales on CNN earlier this week.

"What does it say to you right now that you've had trouble finding a job since you left public office?" Brown asked. Gonzales quit 17 months ago. "Most people would leave public service with many opportunities. Why not you?"

"With respect to employment, listen," Gonzales replied. "I can understand in a very tough economy, some employers are going to be very hesitant about bringing someone like me on when you have ongoing investigation. That is why I am working as hard as I can with my legal team to try to get these investigations completed as quickly as possible, because I am anxious to move on to the next phase of my life. I feel like I still have a lot to contribute to our community and to our country, and I want to do so."

The Bush administration created 3 million jobs and not one lousy job for Gonzales?

Moving In . . .

Robert M. Sussman, a climate change expert at the Center for American Progress, is returning to the Environmental Protection Agency, where he was deputy administrator during the Clinton administration. As second in command at the agency, Sussman was a key player in global warming science policy as well as environmental aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Sussman told colleagues that he will become senior policy counsel to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, advising her on climate and environmental issues across the agency.

And Now for the Clinton Team

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is bringing in a well-connected foreign policy hand to serve under policy planning chief Anne-Marie Slaughter. Derek Chollet, who in 2004 was a foreign policy adviser to vice presidential candidate John Edwards and helped former secretaries of state James A. Baker III and Warren M. Christopher write their memoirs, will become deputy director of policy planning at the State Department.

Chollet is particularly close to veteran diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke, Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, having served as his speechwriter at the United Nations. Most recently a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, Chollet will help Slaughter -- an academic from Princeton -- navigate Washington's policy world.

Clinton is also looking for an assistant secretary for public affairs. Candidates include two Clinton White House veterans. Calvin Mitchell, now executive vice president of communications at the New York Fed, was director of public affairs at the National Security Council and assistant press secretary at the Clinton White House.

Mary Ellen Glynn, now gone private at Pyramid Communications on the West Coast, had been spokeswoman for former U.N. ambassador Holbrooke, a spokeswoman at State and White House deputy press secretary. Also oft-mentioned is Doug Hattaway, a Hillary Clinton spokesman during the campaign who's developed a communications business in Boston.

One question the Clinton folks are sorting out is whether the assistant secretary also handles the daily briefings to keep the media at bay. If the spokesman is not part of the secretary's inner circle, then his utility is much reduced, and the jackals will seek other game. But that means they'll have to work harder, which makes them surlier. That's why media folks like the models set by insiders such as Margaret Tutwiler or James P. Rubin at State or Michele Davis at Treasury.

With Philip Rucker and Alice Crites

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