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Guess which top Obama aide will leave first


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By Al Kamen
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

There are growing rumblings that this or that administration official is about to jump (or be pushed) off the Good Ship Obama. There's talk that Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel goes either just before or just after the November elections and that Office of Management and Budget chief Peter Orszag could be moving on after the current budget season ends. (He's got a growing family to feed.)

National security adviser Jim Jones is said to have signed up for only a year, but he may be obliged to stay. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover who's already been there three years, won't be there forever. And so on.

Such speculation is typical. After all, the average tenure for top government officials is somewhere between 18 months and two years, which tends to mean some departures either before the midterm elections or just after. In the Clinton administration, for example, communications director George Stephanopoulos was moved out of that job after only a few months, and Chief of Staff Thomas "Mack" McLarty lasted less than 18 months. Both stayed on in other jobs.

In George W. Bush's White House, the first bloodletting came just after the midterm elections, when Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and top economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey were bounced.

Despite all the gossip, it's unclear who's leaving when. So (Loop Fans saw this one coming) it's time for first annual Loop "Outta There" Contest.

Simply guess which Cabinet-rank member (see list below) will be the first to be shuffled. Add the top White House aides -- Larry Summers, Nancy-Ann DeParle and Carol Browner. And let's include the Chicago/campaign mafia: David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, Pete Rouse and Robert Gibbs. (We're not including social secretary Desiree Rogers, because of persistent talk that she's already, as they say, keeping her options open.) We'll also include Gen. Jones, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and CIA chief Leon Panetta.

Tiebreaker: Guess when your candidate will depart.

Send your entry to outtathere@washpost.com or In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Winners will get a coveted Loop T-shirt and the bragging rights that go with it. Deadline for entries is the end of the day Wednesday, March 10.

To be eligible, you must include a phone number -- work, home or cell -- so we can contact you. (Administration and government officials may, if they wish, submit entries "on background." If they win, no names will be used.)

Remember, this is who is going to leave, not who should leave.

The Cabinet: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. , Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Other Cabinet-rank officials: Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice, Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Christina D. Romer.


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