Monday, November 04, 2013

Among the Missing in the Battle of Obamacare

Quick, no Googling--who is Barack Obama's chief of staff?

Ah, got you there, didn't I?  Unless you are Ezra Klein or one of the COS' many siblings, I'd say it is very unlikely you are able to conjure up the name of the person who ought. by all rights, to be the second most important person in any Presidential administration.

Which suggests all kinds of questions.  Like: where the hell has he been during the current uproar as the Obama administration seems to descend into a bad imitation of The Pink Panther.  Isn't it the job of the chief of staff precisely to see that things do not happen, i.e., to see that health care does not go off the rails, that surveillance does not turn into a game of catch-the-hot-knife, and that the administration not look like--well, not look like the second Reagan administration as it very nearly disintegrated under the weight of Iran contra?  In all the second-guessing and finger-pointing, if anyone has mentioned the name of the COS, I must have missed it.

Of course there is a perfectly respectable answer to me here.  That is: one of the main job requirements of a COS is not to be noticed: it is the President, not his supposedly faithful sidekick, who is the protagonist of the story.  

This is a beguiling proposition but I am not quite sure it holds up.  Grant that one of the reasons why Donald Regan was not right for the job is that he seemed to think it was about him and not the other guy.  On the other hand,  James Baker seems to have been effective even though people knew his  name.  And if Andrew Card was anonymous, it is because he wasn't much more than an errand boy for Dick Cheney anyway.

So I guess my question comes down to a relatively minor inquiry in the sturdy of administrative behavior.  Where was he, or where is he?   Is he the guy who has kept things from getting far, far worse?  Or is he just a spectator in somebody else's drama?

Still can't remember the name of the incumbent? Go here.

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