Inside the Obama Administration
Barack Obama's executive ineptitude is on display at the highesty level of government. While he has been repeatedly meeting with union leaders over the last two years and playing golf, he has not been so attentive to his cabinet members, and all is not peaceful. The Nobel Peace Prize winner needs to work his magic close to home.
News this week of the first departure of a Cabinet secretary from the Obama administration comes amid a wide-ranging effort under the new chief of staff, William M. Daley, to repair badly frayed relations between the White House and the Cabinet.During the first two years of President Obama's term, the administration fully embraced just a few of his superstar picks -- people such as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. But many more agency chiefs conducted their business in relative anonymity, sometimes after running afoul of White House officials.Both sides were deeply disgruntled. Agency heads privately complained that the White House was a "fortress" that was unwilling to accept input and that micromanaged their departments. Senior administration advisers rolled their eyes in staff meetings at the mention of certain Cabinet members, participants said.Obama himself said his advisers were relying on him too frequently as a messenger, rather than letting his appointees carry important themes to the country, senior administration officials said. And the president felt isolated. "One of the first things he said to me was, 'I want to see these people more often,' " Daley said in an interview.
The top tier is prized, with Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner in good stead. So, too, is Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., even after some early angst over his decision to hold a controversial terrorism trial in New York. They head the traditional "big four," the original departments created by George Washington, with the heftiest portfolios. Additionally, aides said, Obama cherishes Duncan, who is a basketball buddy and a charismatic advocate.Everyone else has had problems, to widely varying degrees