Saturday, January 29, 2011

Catch of the Day

Matt Yglesias nails Howard Fineman for claiming that Barack Obama has "gone Washington" in his recent round of White House staff hirings.  Yglesias:
What’s striking about the change between Rahm Emannuel and Bill Daley at the top is that the two guys share the exact same biographical qualities of being DC insiders who are also people Obama knows from Chicago. Beyond Emannuel, the key departed members of the Obama White House Mark One were Axelrod, Larry Summers, and Peter Orszag. Axelrod’s being swapped out for David Plouffe and Summers & Orzag were never “Georgians.” The entire argument that a change is happening really needs to rest on the Gibbs for Carney swap.
But wait, there's more! Robert Gibbs was in fact an early sign-on to the Obama presidential campaign, but he's a Washingtonian, not an Obama person. Gibbs, as anyone who has heard him talk knows, is certainly not from Chicago. Anyway, he didn't arrive in Washington with Obama. He started out interning and then campaigning for Rep. Glenn Browder of his native Alabama, then worked for Rep. Bob Etheridge, for the re-election campaign of Senator Fritz Hollings, and for the election campaign of Senator Debbie Stabenow. He was DSCC press secretary for the 2002 cycle, then went briefly to John Kerry's presidential campaign, and only after leaving that effort did he wind up with Barack Obama's senate campaign. In other words, he's an absolutely typical example of elite party networks. Sure, at this point he's probably personally dedicated to Obama, but guess what? Jay Carney will be, too. If Gibbs shows any long-term loyalty, it's not to Obama, but to the Democratic Party.

This kind of loyalty to the party network is, in fact, one of the hallmarks of the partisan presidency, which has been in place for about the last thirty years and shows no signs of waning. In the postwar presidency, White House staff tended to be people who had been brought into politics by the president and had few party connections or, in many cases, loyalty; these days, such people are rare in the White House.

Anyway, Fineman is totally wrong here. Nice catch!


  1. The idea of Howard Fineman accusing anyone of having 'gone Washington' boggles the mind.

    This leads to a broader question: Why is the high profile national press so easily spun, or not infrequently self spinning? I find I hardly ever get angry at the right wing any more; it is like blaming snakes for being reptiles. But I'm regularly infuriated at the media for things like buying into to GOP deficit jive.

  2. What about Jim Jones for Tom Donilon at the NSC? I think Jones has pretty thorough track record in Washington, but Military Washington seems a little different. Donilon, though, to my understanding, is a long-time Dem operative. How does that fit in?


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