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Gluesniffer
06-12-2008, 04:46 PM
United States
The new Democratic establishment

Who's who in Obamaworld
Jun 12th 2008 | WASHINGTON, DC
From The Economist print edition

A guide to the main players in Barack Obama's aspiring administration

Reuters
NOT everyone believes in Barack Obama's promise to change Washington. But at least the faces will change. Should he win the White House, Mr Obama will bring in a new team to run the federal government, the Oval Office and the Democratic Party. Sitting Republicans, of course, will be out. But so too will be many members of the old Democratic establishment, long exiled to the Brookings Institution and similar perches to await the return of their powers under Hillary Clinton. So who will run the country if the voters decide that Yes, He Can?

On domestic matters, Mr Obama has assembled a team of sharp academic economists who premise their work on his supposed ability to sell sophisticated policy. Most prominent up until now has been Austan Goolsbee (pictured first left above), a University of Chicago professor whom many expect to head a President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers. Mr Goolsbee's record suggests neither the hostility towards globalised capitalism nor the desire for large-scale redistribution that conservatives, spooked by tales of Mr Obama's left-wing voting record, might fear: Mr Goolsbee is a problem-solver who favours such unsexy proposals as altering American tax forms. He got into trouble earlier this year for telling the Canadians not to worry too much about the anti-NAFTA rhetoric the candidate was emitting on the campaign trail.

From Harvard Mr Obama plucked Jeffrey Liebman, who has produced good research on the earned-income tax credit and its role in moving people from welfare to work, and David Cutler, a health economist who wants doctors' pay tied to medical outcomes. As of this week, though, Mr Obama's newly appointed economics director is Jason Furman (second left, above), an economist in the Clinton administration and a top aide to John Kerry in 2004. His presence rebuts criticism that Mr Obama's team has too little policymaking experience. Mr Furman, too, hews to the non-ideological centre, heading Washington's Hamilton Project, an economic policy group co-founded by Bob Rubin, once Bill Clinton's treasury secretary. Mr Furman is a staunch free-trader who once praised Wal-Mart and has favoured lowering corporate taxes. With a PhD from Harvard, he also does not lack for academic credentials.

Bill Galston, a former senior adviser to Mr Clinton, argues that the campaign, for all its braininess, has so far failed to frame its proposals in a “narrative” about the economy. But the campaign's post-ideological message may fit into a broader theme about Mr Obama's style of politics: that he can unite Americans behind reasoned policy as their problems pile up.

Mr Obama's plans for “change” are most concrete in his determination to leave Iraq. Indeed, his early opposition to the war attracted seasoned foreign-policy practitioners who also disapproved of the invasion. The biggest name among them is Tony Lake (third), Mr Clinton's national security adviser, who taught the ex-president how to salute and who toiled to bring peace to the Balkans. Others in Mr Clinton's top tier—such as Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrooke—backed Mrs Clinton, leaving room for up-and-comers to nab the best spots in the Obama campaign. Susan Rice (fourth), Mr Clinton's assistant secretary of state for African affairs, is a possible national security adviser. The Rwandan genocide deeply affected Ms Rice, who now wants more done to end killing in Darfur; her prominence suggests that President Obama might attend more closely to north-south issues.

Before resigning from the campaign for calling Mrs Clinton a monster, Samantha Power, an academic who has written about genocide, tried to soften Mr Obama's commitment to pull all troops out of Iraq. She will probably find a place in an Obama administration. The campaign boasts some former military brass, including Richard Danzig, a former secretary of the navy and possible defence secretary. Mr Obama is also likely to bring in experienced former ground commanders such as Wesley Clark. And, despite tales of a deep mutual antipathy between Mr Lake and Mr Holbrooke, it would be foolish to rule the pugnacious Mr Holbrooke out of contention for a big job.

But policymaking is harder than writing theories. First, one must get elected. Afterwards, one must win battles with Congress and the public. For both, Mr Obama will look to his political team. Foremost here is David Axelrod (fifth), the man who made “change” into a campaign theme. His consultancy helped elect two mayors in rough-and-tumble Chicago, and he can deliver a punch: he was once accused of producing an ad that made an opponent resemble Hitler. Even so, he seems a true believer in Mr Obama's hopeful rhetoric. “I find myself getting very emotional about it,” he told the Los Angeles Times. All assume he will be Mr Obama's Karl Rove.

Also surrounding Mr Obama are well-connected Chicagoans who supported his Senate run in 2004, when he was an unknown state legislator. Valerie Jarrett, a former head of the Chicago Stock Exchange, is the person who can tell the Obamas uncomfortable truths. Penny Pritzker, the campaign's finance chair and a property billionaire, supposedly joined the campaign after her husband banged their kitchen door, proclaiming, “this is destiny knocking on the door of our nation,” (though the couple seem normal in other respects).

A big part of Mr Obama's success, though, is due to the Democratic operators he lured from elsewhere. His campaign manager, David Plouffe (sixth), a former aide to Dick Gephardt, is disciplined and parsimonious, overseeing the amassing of the biggest political piggybank ever seen and orchestrating Obama victories in small, organisation-intensive caucus states.

Mr Plouffe's chief organisers are Steve Hildebrand and Paul Tewes, who ran Al Gore's successful Iowa caucus bid in 2000. Mr Tewes will soon move to the Democratic National Committee to head its presidential campaign effort—and consolidate Mr Obama's control of the party. Tom Daschle, a former Senate majority leader, could help Mr Obama's team put pressure on Congress without alienating its members, a problem that can dog first-term presidents.

The ambition of Mr Obama's team is exciting, but in office it could be dangerous. In 1993 the clever Clintons tripped up very quickly. What if Congress doesn't care for the finely-tuned policies of Mr Obama's top-notch economists? Or if Mr Obama finds he can't pull out of Iraq as planned? Or if Americans tire of his charisma and he stops being able to attract adoring crowds tens of thousands strong? The lynchpin of his campaign has been a faith, almost messianic, in his personal excellence. If that fades, then the whole operation could collapse in frustration and disillusionment.

http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=11551686