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President Obama, already confronted with his party’s grim November electoral prospects, must now face an exodus of top level advisers from his own administration. The latest to jump ship is Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, whose imminent departure to run for mayor of Chicago is just the latest example of aides distancing themselves from what appears to be a rapidly sinking presidency.
Emanuel’s decision comes on the heels of chief economic adviser Larry Summer’s recent resignation, which followed the earlier departures of budget director Peter Orszag and Council of Economic Advisers Chair Christina Romer. With nearly his entire group of economic advisers headed for the tall grass, the only holdout remains Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.
Given that these individuals have overseen an economy with record unemployment rates and job losses, it is not surprising that Obama’s economic team members would want an early head-start on their post-White House careers. Supporters of the president say, however, it’s not unusual to have staff shakeups prior to an administration’s midterm point. They even go so far as to say it’s actually a good move because the president will be able to take advantage of these departures to bring new energy and clearer strategic thinking to his team.
Others, including some Democrats, conclude differently. They feel the president’s need to surround himself with only longtime associates breeds an inability to accurately assess and accurately respond to the roiling sea of events that have rocked his presidency and which have caused a steep decline in his and his party’s fortunes.
The Washington Post reported one such unnamed Democratic strategist who said, “They miscalculated where people were out in the country on jobs, on spending, on the deficit, on debt. They have not been able to get ahead of any of it. And it’s all about the insularity. Otherwise how do you explain how a group who came in with more goodwill in decades squandered it?”
The Obama response has been to place any perceived internal problems, not on the shoulders of unpopular legislation, but instead on inarticulate messaging, which is a strange fallback position for a man considered by his allies to be one of the greatest orators in American political history.
The latest example of this supposition at work was the president’s recent admission that he had failed to convince voters of the wonder of his healthcare reform bill. Speaking to a group of supporters at an event designed to resell the bill to a skeptical public, Obama said, “Sometimes, I fault myself for not making the case more clearly to the country.”
This healthcare awareness campaign follows his Summer of Recovery tour, a six week long public relations trek designed to highlight to Americans the incredible accomplishments his economic policies have created. Apparently, they were unaware that the loss of 2.9 million jobs and a 10% unemployment rate wasn’t obvious enough proof of its success.
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