A recent piece in the Financial Times looked at the inner circle around Obama in the White House, Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, and Robert Gibbs – and (on the basis of deep background anonymity) quite a few people from the next few rings of influence around Obama indicate that this foursome’s presence has become a major problem for the administration. I’m not much of a fan of deep background journalism, but Steve Clemons, a DC blogger who really knows his stuff – and DC’s stuff – says that the FT piece is almost entirely correct. That’s not good.
Key somewhat haunting quote from the original essay:
barring Richard Nixon’s White House, few can think of an administration that has been so dominated by such a small inner circle.
Key analysis from Clemons:
one thing essential to understand is that the kind of policy that smart strategists — including by people like National Security Adviser Jim Jones, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other advisers like Denis McDonough, Tom Donilon, James Steinberg, William Burns, (previously Gregory Craig) — would be putting forward is getting twisted either in the rough-and-tumble of a a team of rivals operation that is not working, or is being distorted by the Chicago political gang’s tactical advice that is seducing Obama towards a course that has not only violated deals he made with those who voted him into office but which is failing to hit any of the major strategic targets by which the administration will be historically measured.
President Obama needs to take stock quickly. Read the Luce piece. Be honest about what is happening. Read Plouffe’s smart book again. Send Rahm Emanuel back to the House in a senior role. Make Valerie Jarrett an important Ambassador. Keep Axelrod — but balance him with someone like Plouffe, and get back to putting good policy before short term politics.
Overall it is a troubling possible status quo. While certainly voters elected not only Obama the individual but Obama the organization, speaking at least for myself I certainly did not bust my ass to make Rahm Emanuel some kind of policy viceroy. Or Axelrod the main adviser on China. Or an inner team so feared that journalists won’t even link to the FT piece for fear of being cut off. Isolation is one of the core reasons that the Presidency of Bush 43 was such an abject failure for him and for America, and that was with a Congress that actually let the majority agenda play itself out even a tiny bit. Obama is definitely not G.W. Bush, but if this analysis is correct – and it seems that like it probably is – then being disappointed is probably the least of an Obama supporter’s worries…