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Alter's 'The Promise' Epilogue: Obama Team's Dysfunction Prompted Lack Of Focus On Jobs; Bill Clinton Annoyed At White House

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 12/30/10 05:18 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:20 PM ET

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Some revelations about the Obama administration detailed in the new epilogue to the upcoming paperback release of Jonathan Alter's bestseller, "The Promise," probably won't please too many folks at the White House. Alter claims that a dysfunctional relationship between top White House aides hurt the administration's policy on job creation, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was almost dropped from financial reform legislation and was only reinstated after complaints by Elizabeth Warren, and Bill Clinton continually grumbles about being disrespected by the administration.

The Obama administration's perceived failure to take laser-like aim at the unemployment crisis was partly due to the dysfunctional relationship between White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, top economic adviser Larry Summers and senior adviser David Axelrod, specifically the intransigence of Summers, according to Alter:

"The inability to pivot in 2010 to a single-minded focus on jobs was a by-product of what one senior aide called "dysfunction" between Emanuel, Summers, and Axelrod. Rahm had always admired Larry, but he was becoming exasperated with his failure to give him a jobs plan he could sell. 'Week after week, Rahm would say, 'Let's explore this' or 'How about that?' and Larry would slow-walk everything,' recalled one senior advisor. 'He basically doesn't believe in the government helping small business'."

Alter writes that the CFPB survived certain death only because of Warren's commitment:

"The most popular provision of Dodd-Frank almost didn't happen. In late 2009 Elizabeth Warren learned that a proposed bureau of consumer financial protection had been dropped from the bill. She went to the White House to object, and the bureau, to the dismay of predatory lenders, was reinstated."

Obama's relationship with the Clintons remains strained and Bill Clinton constantly complains in private about how he's been disrespected by the administration, writes Alter.

Though they talk frequently, the former president was annoyed that Obama didn't give him credit for helping to negotiate a spy swap that led to the release from Russian jails of four Russians who had been working for the CIA (in the wake of the bust of Russian spies living in American suburbs six months ago), Clinton's aides tell Alter. In addition, Clinton was miffed that Samantha Power, who insulted Hillary during the 2008 campaign, was chosen as an emissary to Bosnia in July. ("Bill Clinton might not have accepted the job, but he wanted to be asked," Alter writes.)

"An old friend compared him [Clinton] to a big puppy dog who just needed some attention to be happy and helpful."

Clinton felt dissed because, after negotiating the release by North Korea of two imprisoned American journalists, he was told to travel on a separate plane so as not to overshadow the arrival of the women. "Some of these guys in the White House act small," one aide told Alter.

And Clinton's team was angry that former protégés like Rahm Emanuel didn't show the former president proper respect. After Clinton "worked like a nerd" to prepare a detailed 30-page memo on how to incentivize banks with loan guarantees to spur job creation, the White
House ignored the memo for a few months, and then treated Clinton like a "prop" during Obama's meeting with CEOs. When a Clinton aide complained to Emanuel, "Are you serious?", the chief of staff replied that Clinton should be grateful he was on the president's schedule at all, writes Alter.

"Clinton felt better disposed toward his 1992 opponent, George H.W. Bush... one senior aide described Bush as a 'father figure' to Clinton, who never knew his natural father..."

Tough media coverage continued to annoy the administration. When the New York Times reported in August that BP was rising to the challenge of cleaning up the oil spill but hardly noted the administration's role, Obama snapped, "I'm getting pounded for not pushing BP hard enough and now they turn around and say BP did an acceptable job in spite of Obama. We can't win."

Alter details Obama's poisonous relationship with Congressional Republican leaders John Boehner and Mitch McConnell -- though the president talked to John McCain in spite of his 2008 rival's anti-Obama rhetoric, he refused for months to meet one-on-one with McConnell, because he thought it was unfair to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. After a frustrating mid-summer meeting with Republican leadership at the White House, Obama expressed his annoyance at Boehner's insistence on extending tax cuts for the wealthy despite the budget deficit.

The president told friends: "All I want for Christmas is an opposition I can negotiate with."

The White House has not yet responded to a late-afternoon request for comment.

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