John D. Podesta, who was chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and is one of the Democratic Party’s most experienced strategists, is joining the White House to help President Obama salvage what has become a difficult second term.
Podesta, who has been an outside adviser to Obama since leading his presidential transition after the 2008 election, will formally join his inner circle as White House counselor for a year, according to sources familiar with the move.
The addition of Podesta to the White House staff is indicative of the rotten management skill that got the president to where he is. Rather than replace the inept group around him, he has further complicated the White House hierarchy by adding Podesta to the mix. Is Valerie Jarrett going to give way to Podesta? I doubt it. President Obama is kidding himself if he thinks adding yet another “cc” to the e-mail chain and populating useless meetings with one more voice will turn things around.
The move will, I strongly suspect, merely create another power base (“Podesta’s circle,” “Jarrett’s circle,” etc.) and reaffirm one of the most debilitating aspects of this presidency: No matter how badly you screw up, you never get fired. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is still there, although Jeff Zients was brought in to try to clean up some of her mess. Likewise, Podesta enters but Jarrett and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough remain.
Moreover, the selection of Podesta, a left-wing ideologue whose idea of innovative thinking is an income-inequality screed, suggests the president, as he invariably does, is merely doubling down on his statism. This is not a president who really internalized the problems with big government, nor one interested in reaching out to the center. No, this president is now in a panic and rushing to his base, presumably to keep his approval ratings from sliding into the 30s.
One can’t ignore Podesta’s closeness to the Clintons. One danger now is that the Clintons — as Bill did when he suggested the president had to keep his promise that you can keep your insurance — cut loose from Obama in an effort to separate Hillary from the president. The last thing Obama needs is Bill and Hillary explaining how they’d do things differently and previewing excuses for Hillary’s mediocre tenure at state. Podesta, for now, keeps everyone on the same page.
The addition of Podesta won’t change the underlying problems dragging this presidency down. Obamacare’s problems are multiplying. The Senate increasingly looks like it will flip to a Republican majority. As the Rothenberg Political Report notes:
In a recently released Quinnipiac University poll in Colorado, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall polled in the mid-40s against a handful of underwhelming and unknown Republicans. This is in a race currently rated by the Rothenberg Political Report as Safe for Democrats.
We don’t have comparable public data for too many other supposedly safe Senate races, but there are at least 10 other Democratic Senate seats that are structurally more vulnerable than Colorado. Of course, as I’ve written before, Republicans only need to win states that Mitt Romney carried in 2012 to get back to the Senate majority. The GOP won’t likely need victories in Michigan, Iowa, Colorado or New Hampshire. Those would just be icing on the cake.
(Since that was written, a new poll, albeit an internal one, shows Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) leading Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) 48 to 41 percent.)
The president’s second term is sliding downhill fast. The Podesta pick suggests the president hasn’t a clue what to do about it.