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Could Obama’s Cabinet, staff shakeup make Valerie Jarrett chief of staff?

President Barack Obamwaves as he walks off Marine One with daughters Sashsecond from right  Malileft first lady Michelle Obambefore

President Barack Obama waves as he walks off Marine One with daughters Sasha, second from right, Malia, left, and first lady Michelle Obama before leaving O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

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Updated: December 9, 2012 7:51PM



A day after winning election to a second term, President Barack Obama, Michelle, Malia and Sasha returned to the White House from their Kenwood home — with Obama stopping by his headquarters here for an emotional send-off to his campaign workers.

Obama was joined by campaign manager Jim Messina and chief strategist David Axelrod. They all gave shout-outs to the staff and volunteers who gathered together in the massive Prudential Building office for the last time.

Almost all of the paid staff in Chicago and in state operations will be without jobs in a few days. Obama stayed about an hour.

Cabinet, other changes

Meanwhile, the Obama second term will be starting to take shape, with speculation already raging about Cabinet switches and other high-level staff changes that may be in the works. I don’t expect any wholesale, done-in-a-day overhauls; rather, watch for a gradual process.

Here’s the talk:

Treasury. The current White House chief of staff, Jack Lew, has the inside track to be named Treasury secretary to replace Tim Geithner. Another name floating around is Erskine Bowles, who was a White House chief of staff for former President Bill Clinton.

Chief of staff. Names that have been mentioned to replace Lew (who followed Bill Daley who came after Rahm Emanuel) include senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. Jarrett also oversees the White House offices of intergovernmental affairs and public engagement. Jarrett’s role is larger than her titles suggest; she is a counselor-at-large on a variety of matters, often travels with the president and is a personal confidante to both the president and Mrs. Obama.

Another name mentioned is Ron Klain, an attorney who most recently was helping Obama in debate prep. Klain has been chief of staff for Vice President Joe Biden and Vice President Al Gore.

State. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is eager to leave. I’ve heard that United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice is at the top of the list to replace her — even if she has to navigate through the controversy over the timeline she offered about the murders of the four American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been very interested in the spot, but quitting his Senate seat would trigger a consequence: another battle over a Massachusetts Senate seat. Republican Sen. Scott Brown, defeated Tuesday by Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren, could start plotting a comeback.

Defense. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta commutes back home to California almost weekly and is said to looking for an off-ramp in the next months. One name mentioned is former Undersecretary Michele Flournoy — who would be the first woman in the spot.

Education. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the former Chicago schools chief, wants to stay — and there is no plan for a change.

Attorney General. Attorney General Eric Holder would like to leave eventually — but does not want to seem as if he were run out of office over the “Fast and Furious” gun-running controversy. The top name to replace him is Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Transportation. A bit back, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood signaled one term might be enough; I’m told he may be persuaded to stay on — at least for a while.

Agriculture. Secretary Tom Vilsack was interested in staying — but that was when his wife, Christie, was running for an Iowa House seat. She lost Tuesday, so the couple may be rethinking their future.

The inauguration

Planning has already started for Obama to be sworn into his second term — with the date a historic footnote.

The 57th presidential inauguration is to take place on Jan. 21. Say what? The 20th Amendment to the Constitution in 1933 set the date at noon Jan. 20.

Why the next day? According to the House/Senate committee handling inauguration ceremonies, the 2013 inauguration marks the seventh time since 1933 that Jan. 20 has landed on a Sunday.



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