Week In Politics: White House Shuffle, Economy
MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:
Welcome to you both.
DIONNE: Good to be with you.
DAVID BROOKS: Good to be here.
LOUISE KELLY: I want to start you off where Tom Bowman just left us - with the departure of General Jones, the national security adviser. David, let me start with you, how do you rate his tenure?
BROOKS: Jones never really gave off that aura. And that's pretty bad for a national security adviser. You've got to wake up in the morning and say what can I do today to make my president's life easier. And the successful ones have done that and have paid close attention to that job and have put in the hours - 12, 14, 17 hours a day - doing that. He never really fit into that model and he never really fit into the culture of debate. So I think it became evident months and months that Obama was going to Donilon - has been going to Donilon because he just felt more comfortable with him.
LOUISE KELLY: E.J., we've heard rumors that General Jones's departure was coming, but it seems to have come maybe a little bit sooner than some people were expecting. What do you think is the back story?
DIONNE: Secondly, he's had a kind of channel with the State Department through the Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg. They've worked together for years on campaigns, when Democrats were out of power, on foreign policy issues. That helped prevent tensions between Secretary of State Clinton and the president, and it gave Donilon, I think, some extra power. So I thought this was eventually going to happen and now it has.
LOUISE KELLY: And now it has. Well, we learned one interesting bit of trivia about Donilon today, which is that he gets through the day thanks to, quote, "seemingly limitless quantities of Diet Coke."
DIONNE: That's true.
LOUISE KELLY: The president gave us that news today.
DIONNE: It's an untold scandal in the administration, because Larry Summers also uses a lot of Diet Coke. So there's a real addiction problem throughout the entire White House.
LOUISE KELLY: Well, setting aside possibly addiction problems...
DIONNE: The administration's Coke problem. Is that what you're talking about?
LOUISE KELLY: I mean, one thing he does not bring to the table is military experience. General Jones obviously had that in spades. Does it matter in the 21st century for a national security adviser to have had some military experience under their belt?
DIONNE: Well, I think Henry Kissinger would say it's not a big problem. I think we've always...
LOUISE KELLY: Mm-hmm. Condoleezza Rice.
DIONNE: ...had a mixture of foreign policy advisers, some out of the military, some not. And I think that's a good thing. You need some of both.
LOUISE KELLY: David, this word of Jones's departure comes just a week after Rahm Emanuel, president Obama's chief of staff, announced he's leaving. Last month came word that a couple of his top economic advisers, Christina Romer and Larry Summers, were stepping aside. Is this an unusual amount of turnover for a president before the two-year mark in his presidency, before even the midterm elections?
BROOKS: I find that's not true. In my conversations with people in the White House their mood is fine. They're not too pleased about Washington these days and the city they happen to live in. But within the White House I don't detect any upsurge in disarray or down attitudes or infighting. So I think a lot of this is just - by and large, it's either a couple of people they were unhappy with, but mostly it's just an accumulation of circumstance, not a sign of anything deeper.
LOUISE KELLY: Well, let me ask you both about another challenge the president's facing, and of course, the economy would be front and center. We had new unemployment numbers out today showing the economy still really struggling to create jobs. This new report showing the economy lost 95,000 jobs in September. Not a very encouraging picture for the president. And that's the last unemployment report we're going to have before the elections next month. What does this mean for members of Congress out trying to figure out how to spin this on the campaign trail?
DIONNE: I think that it's very clear that you needed more stimulus, particularly in the form of help to state and local governments. They're in fiscal crisis. They are laying off people and in many cases they're also raising taxes. This is not a good thing to do for the economy. And so I think what you're going to see is people saying, ah, Obama's stimulus didn't work in campaign terms. The stimulus wasn't big enough, but it actually did a lot for us as far as it went. And what's really hurting us now are the anti-stimulative policies as things like aids to state and local governments get blocked by the Republicans in Congress.
LOUISE KELLY: David, what's your take?
BROOKS: I might take a little different tact.
DIONNE: I thought you might.
BROOKS: And there's no short-term solution to that problem. We have to get to a point where our fiscal situation at home and in the states are at some sort of sustainable level, and that means we're going to have slow growth for a long period. But there is no shortcut out of that problem. We went on a three-decade binge.
DIONNE: But if you're looking at the state and local government, we're not talking here about their just getting rid of debt and coming to some balance. I mean, they're making very deep cuts and the tax increases. And, you know, conservatives shouldn't like very much the fact that state and local governments are having to raise taxes. And so I think there is still a role to get this thing moving quicker.
LOUISE KELLY: E.J., one more topic for you on the campaign trail, this controversy over funding for U.S. Chamber of Commerce ads. The allegation is the Chamber is using foreign money to pay for its ads. The Chamber denies it. What should we make of it?
DIONNE: The problem is there's no way of knowing whether or not the Chamber is telling to truth, or whether it is technically telling the truth but foreign money coming in through memberships from foreign entities is sort of indirectly mixed in. And I think this becomes a big deal. There is an enormous amount of outside advertising financed by wealthy conservatives and now, thanks to the terrible Citizens United decision, corporations - I was down in Danville, Virginia, Tom Perriello's district - and you look at the morning shows, and it was just bombarded with ads. I think this is going to become a big issue because people are going to ask, why are these people spending all this money to influence the selection? What do they want to buy out of it?
LOUISE KELLY: All right. Thank you very much. That's E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and David Brooks of The New York Times. Thank you both, gentlemen.
DIONNE: Thank you.
BROOKS: Thank you.
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