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Obama’s new chief of staff an expert on executive powers

This news story was published on January 15, 2012.
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By Peter Nicholas, Tribune Washington Bureau –

WASHINGTON — With the appointment of Jacob Lew as his new chief of staff, President Barack Obama chose a Washington veteran who is well-liked on Capitol Hill, but — just as important for dealing with hostile Republicans in an election year — is also an expert on the executive powers Obama can use to advance his agenda without lawmakers’ cooperation.

(PHOTO: President Barack Obama announces the resignation of White House Chief of Staff William Daley, right, and his appointment of Jacob Lew, left, the current director of the office of management and budget, as his new chief of staff in Washington, D.C, on Monday, January 9, 2012. )

Lew, who replaces William M. Daley, steps into the role after a year of fierce partisan battles that saw Obama’s policy goals largely stalled in Congress. More and more, the president relied on executive orders to enact small pieces of his economic, education and housing proposals.

Lew is skilled in such practices. For two different presidents, Bill Clinton and Obama, he has headed the Office of Management and Budget, whose mission includes putting in place rules and regulations that don’t require congressional approval.

As Obama’s fourth chief of staff, he’ll be positioned to carry out the White House’s pivot away from engagement with Congress in favor of unilateral action. The approach jibes with a re-election strategy that includes running against a deeply unpopular Congress.

“Clearly, since Labor Day, there has been this turn from talking to (House Speaker) John A. Boehner and (Senate Republican leader) Mitch McConnell all the time — Velcroing themselves to Congress — toward using all the tools of government to move the agenda forward,” said John Podesta, who was chief of staff under Clinton and worked closely with Lew.

“All the executive orders and initiatives and regulations move through OMB, and Jack is extremely experienced with that. He’ll be able to shape and guide all the assets of the government to move the economy forward for the middle class.”

Obama’s appointment of Lew fits a pattern of hiring chiefs of staff suited to the needs of his presidency at a particular time.

Rahm Emanuel, the consummate Capitol Hill dealmaker, got the job when Obama was intent on moving an ambitious legislation through a Democratic-controlled Congress. After Emanuel left to run for mayor of Chicago, longtime Obama adviser Peter Rouse stepped in on an interim basis. The more conservative Daley was hired partly in hopes of improving Obama’s rapport with the business community.

Lew is far different from his predecessors. The famously profane Emanuel consolidated power in his office and had a hand in virtually all aspects of the White House operation. Daley had a political persona of his own, as a former commerce secretary under Clinton and a member of a famous political family in Chicago.

The even-tempered Lew is more in the mold of a traditional government aide.

A former White House aide said that after Lew arrived as director in 2010, he “brought a stability and an adult-in-the-room approach. He had experience and had been there before. He’s calm, level-headed and respected.”

The former aide spoke on condition of anonymity to speak more candidly about White House personalities.

Lew, who served as an aide under former House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, leans toward the liberal end of the political spectrum and is not reluctant to take a stand, according to people who know him.

After he became OMB director two years ago, Lew and some other Obama advisors met privately in the office of Larry Summers, a top economic adviser, to discuss ways to jolt the economy. No one in the room was certain of Lew’s position, and whether he might oppose new spending for fear of ratcheting up the deficit. But he sided with those calling for more temporary stimulus measures.

“He’s quiet and a mild-mannered guy, but if you really want to see him fight, put him in a position where he’s protecting disadvantaged people and he’ll go to the mat,” said Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. “That’s something you don’t see enough of at that level of power.”

Lew, 56, worked in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s State Department before moving to OMB. He and his wife, Ruth Schwartz, contributed $9,200 to Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2007-08, according to disclosure forms filed with Congress. He gave $2,300 to the Obama campaign at the end of August 2008, after Clinton dropped out of the Democratic primary fight, the forms show.

Before joining the Obama administration, Lew worked at Citigroup for three years, earning $945,000 for his work in 2008, according to disclosure forms filed when he was nominated to head OMB. The forms also show he held between $50,000 and $100,000 in state of Israel bonds.

A native of the Forest Hills neighborhood in Queens, N.Y., Lew is an orthodox Jew who keeps kosher and observes the Sabbath: Between sundown Friday and Saturday, he doesn’t drive, use electricity or work on his BlackBerry.

One aide recalls Lew walking to work at the White House on Saturdays. Lew is available to Obama should the president need to reach him during that time, according to the White House.

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16 Responses to Obama’s new chief of staff an expert on executive powers

  1. Avatar

    Observer Reply Report comment

    January 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Peter, you were parked in front of the pizza joint as I was walking by, I called you by name, nada.

    Next, the mayor, or whom ever else can legally respond to what ever is said here or elsewhere.

    However, as I explained in prior times, any doctor who has had you as a patient, cannot respond to your attacks because of “patient – doctor confidentiality”. It’s illegal. It is black letter law.

  2. Avatar

    Peter Reply Report comment

    January 16, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Buzz, I’ll make you a deal. I won’t write caustically against loud tailpipes if you agree to make yours quiet. I will have to verify their decibel levels before this agreement is binding, so you’ll have to drive down main street in Clear Lake at a designated time. I’ll be in the coffee shop monitoring you, from behind the reflective window.

    • Avatar

      Buzz Crumcutter Reply Report comment

      January 16, 2012 at 4:40 pm

      I could really care less how you write or what you write about . Your thought process is all over the map the way it is, so what you say you will do today, will most likely change tomorrow anyway. Besides, I never really thought of you as a “caustic” writer anyway, rather I think of you as more of a “gastric” writer.

      Hide out where ever you would like but be careful if you are behind a reflective window and just make sure nobody sneaks up behind you and scares the gastric out of you!!! I’m afraid if they scared it all out of you, there wouldn’t be much left besides a warm spot in the chair.

  3. Avatar

    Peter Reply Report comment

    January 15, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    Believe it or not, I’m actually getting bored with this. It’s quite simply a double standard. It’s OK for Children to call Tornquist “The Dictator” and write ad nauseum about the mayor and city council members he doesn’t like, but when I mention a psychiatrist who has done far worse than city council or mayor has ever done, it’s hands off taboo, and I cannot mention him or I’m slandering / libelling, writing against someone who cannot defend themselves etc. If it weren’t for the involuntary nature of psychiatry, they would probably win a whole lot more fans. As far as I’m concerned, psychologists and the fitness center are where to go if you have a problem…NOT psychiatrists.

  4. Avatar

    Buzz Crumcutter Reply Report comment

    January 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    First of all I’ve never hit a lady in my life, so I wouldn’t start with you. Second, true to your word, you didn’t get into the b.s. that happened on Open Salon either……much.

    As I have suggested to earlier (as one friend to another) please schedule an appointment with a physiatrist at your earliest convenience, because thoughts and comments like yours are not from a healthy mind.

    • Avatar

      Peter Reply Report comment

      January 15, 2012 at 5:31 pm

      You know who I am, and you wouldn’t dare even approach me, much less hit me. So keep dreaming Buzzard.

    • Avatar

      Peter Reply Report comment

      January 15, 2012 at 5:33 pm

      People that drive around loud motorcycles are the one’s who will be seeing the psychiatrist. They are the ones who need it. There’s something really weird about a man who disrupts neighborhoods with his loud motorcycle. Something’s definitely not right up there.

  5. Avatar

    Buzz Crumcutter Reply Report comment

    January 15, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    For a brief moment, I thought I was the only one who could remember that most of Peter’s rants depend upon which way the wind was blowing at the time he is ranting.

    I will continue to keep waving and saying him to him as well. When the weather gets really nice I will even offer him a ride on the Harley too. He will be able to enjoy that open-air feeling he enjoys in a vehicle ride, but only on two wheels.

    • Avatar

      Peter Reply Report comment

      January 15, 2012 at 4:40 pm

      I can tell you want to hit me. You’re that type. As far as a “nasty little attitude”…I say the same thing about people riding loud motorcyles around arrogantly ignoring everyone else’s peace and quiet. As far a ride on your Harley, this may help you understand how I feel about that offer. If I could string guy wire across the street and knock you losers off your bikes, and legally get away with it…I would. So take your ride offer and shove it up your… Besides, I’m no bitch. If I want to buy a motorcycle and ride it…I’ll do so. Anyway, I can sense the “tuff guy” tone in your voice, so maybe you better chill for awhile.

  6. Avatar

    Buzz Crumcutter Reply Report comment

    January 15, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Ruckus??? Hmmmm, that isn’t what it sounded like to me. As far as your name calling, I’d be inclined to think that from the comments I’ve read about you, that you might be speaking of yourself. And with that nasty little attitude of yours, I’m almost ready to stop speaking to you or waving when I see you.

    • Avatar

      Observer Reply Report comment

      January 15, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      I gave up waving at Peter when I would see him downtown. And for the record, I was blogging before it was called that (we called them letters to the Editor). Before Peter was out of diapers. And you know what? It all means nothing.

      Putting out ideas are fine. But when ideas become obviously self-serving, they cease to be of worth. We read so much written here from Peter about the desire of society conforming to us, when the reality is, we need to conform to society and it’s structure.

      And clearly we all remember not a few weeks ago, Peter was all in support for those he calls “Repugnicans” in the form of Ron Paul. After all, he (Paul) does desire to be the standard bearer of those same people you wish to “….lay their bloody corpses in a pit, to be burned and bulldozed….”. One cannot have it both ways.

      And as I have mentioned before Peter, it unfair to write about someone, who cannot legally respond to your comments. I refer specifically, to the person you call “a creepy Nazi psychiatrist / doctor”.

    • Avatar

      Peter Reply Report comment

      January 15, 2012 at 4:18 pm

      Waving to me? Are you delerious? I’ve never seen someone on a Harley wave at me. And the truth is, unless their tailpipes were at an acceptable volume level…i wouldn’t wave back.

      I’m not going to get into the b.s. that happened on Open Salon. I was part of that blog community for awhile. Periodically “flame” wars erupted between frustrated bloggers. I was involved in one that got really screwy…prompted by my defense of Israel against an Australian girl’s Islamic affinity. The threatening and harassing comments however, were written by some demented psychopath that went by the blog name Aka Kalvin, and Caracalla’s Amanuensis, who jumped into the fray and started posting very obscene and nasty comments…my blog included. Eventually people realized it wasn’t me doing it, but BBE refused to take his post down, because he says that he doesn’t delete anything…so I’m stuck with it. The reality is that Kerry Lauerman did a disservice as the editor of Open Salon by not revealing to the blog community that my IP Address was from Iowa and the other threatening and harassing ones were from who knows where. I asked him repeatedly to intervene, but he’s a very disinterested Editor, who doesn’t get involved with flame wars and mixups. It’s actually an issue that probably needs to be addressed in a court of law at some point, because if Editors of Blog sites CAN announce where IP Address origins are from to help settle harassment allegations, then I believe they should be legally compelled to do so. I’m innocent, and despite the bad Google press (which sux) I have nothing to worry about.

    • Avatar

      Peter Reply Report comment

      January 15, 2012 at 7:04 pm

      i was entertaining a ron paul presidency because I believed in his libertarian professions. it’s not looking like he will be the nominee, and worse, they are nominating Bain Romney, to keep the status quo continuing…so I’m of course, back to hating Republicans.

  7. Avatar

    Buzz Crumcutter Reply Report comment

    January 15, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Wow, another written while high rant.

    There is a massive misunderstanding by this so-called president, his administration,
    and liberals on a whole host of things, but most especially on how fat the
    golden goose really is and what happens when you run it and or our country out of money.

    As far as I’m concerned, Obama isn’t much different than you other than he isn’t the one “hiding behind blue eyes”
    like you are and have been.

    • Avatar

      Peter Reply Report comment

      January 15, 2012 at 8:41 am

      buzz, you’re an idiot. Behind Blue Eyes is a blogger on another web forum. you googled my name. big deal. all that ruckus that happened on that other website was a case of anonymous a-holes who some idiots on the blog thought was me. It wasn’t. I asked the editor to reveal the IP address of those other bloggers and he refused to. So i’m stuck with some bad,false press. such is the risk you take when writing under your real name. Something you would know nothing about. anyway…like I’ve said before…I’ve been blogging before you were born…so anything else? Or are you finished?

  8. Avatar

    Peter Reply Report comment

    January 15, 2012 at 5:56 am

    It should serve as a lesson hard-learned for Obama…to NEVER reach across the aisle again, towards the likes of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. Republicans like them need to be utterly crushed and defeated…they are like cancer that will only get worse if you play around with it and don’t thoroughly eradicate it. Obama had major momentum going in, and he squandered that by trying to be diplomatic and amicable. This next season, once it appears that Bain Romney will be his opponent, he needs to take the gloves off and completely pummel the Repugnicians, and lay their bloody corpses in a pit, to be burned and bulldozed, so that future generations will NEVER hear from them again. Mitch McConnell reminds me of a creepy Nazi psychiatrist / doctor who does medical experiments on the poor and weak. He resembles Dale Armstrong, a local psychiatrist…soft spoken, but ruthless.