So, here's what you need to know about the pending decision on who will fill the role of White House Chief of Staff for the Obama administration: the White House is fully aware that former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has left, and that they have appointed Pete Rouse on an interim basis, and that at some point they will probably decide on whether to keep Pete Rouse or appoint someone new.
That's it! Probably most of you can move on, now, with your lives. But what if you are some sort of White House chief of staff groupie who has a subscription to Tiger Beat: White House Chief Of Staff Edition, or are someone who has, out of desperation, placed some sort of large wager on who will take over for Emanuel? Well, I've no news for you, either. No one does! And no one knows who might replace Larry Summers on Obama's Council of Economic Advisors, or who might replace Robert Gibbs, should he stop being the White House Press Secretary. But your yawning gap of need is, as always, fueled by a bunch of pointless speculation from White House reporters who literally do not have anything better to do.
Let's consider, for example, these 19 paragraphs from CNN's Ed Henry, which express in a very complicated fashion that Henry knows next to nothing about any of these matters, other than the fact that there are many anonymous people he can talk to about palace intrigue, who also don't know anything.
The piece is titled, "Obama staff shakeup imminent," which is literally the only thing anyone can literally be sure of, because, as we've already established, the people who once occupied these offices no longer do, and at some point, these offices will be filled by other people. Of course, in the case of Emanuel and Summers, this has been "imminent" for months. And it's a "shakeup" only insofar as "shakeup" is one word we can use to describe what's happening. Another way to put it would be to say, "Vacant positions at White House to be eventually filled by human beings," but that doesn't help to advance any larger narrative, like say, "White House is coping with the incoming House GOP! What will they do? What does it mean?"
From there, Henry engages in a complicated tarantella with a shifting array of anonymous sources, all of whom assert different things, at times contradicting one another. None of this gets you any closer to any truth other than the fact that there are a lot of people available to say things to Ed Henry. The media is filled by stories like this, in which unidentified people assert things to reporters that may or may not be true, but this piece is one of the more comically insane entries in the genre. Let me try to break it down for you.
--"Two senior Democratic sources close to the process" begin by saying that the race to replace Rahm is between interim Chief of Staff Pete Rouse and William Daley.
--The same "two senior Democratic sources close to the process" say that a decision is coming "as early as Friday." They also say that Obama "would like to get the uncertainty about his long-term chief of staff sorted out within the next week." In other words, they are sure a decision is coming soon, unless it comes later, in which case they are sure of that, too.
--Next, we meet "Several Democratic sources." These "several Democratic sources" are distinct (we think?) from the first "two senior Democratic sources close to the process." The "several Democratic sources" say that Gene Sperling will replace Larry Summers. Of the "several" sources, there is one who says this is "more or less done." It's a mystery why he hasn't convinced his fellows among the "several" of this certainty.
--Who is the more right, here? More people believe that Sperling will replace Summers, but only one of them is certain enough to say that it's "more or less done." Meanwhile, there are only two people so far who think the next chief of staff will be Rouse or Daley, but they are, unlike the "several" in the latter instance, "close to the process."
--Before we can ponder this conundrum, we meet "several senior Democratic sources," who say that "Obama is now privately feeling like he needs to move quickly to flesh out the broader reorganization within the White House in order to gear up for the Republican House that takes power on Wednesday." This is a different set of "several" sources, in that they are "senior." Are they "close to the process?" We don't know. But despite their seniority, they seem to know even less than the first group of "several" sources, who aren't "close to the process."
--This second "several" go on to assert that Gibbs might end up with "another senior post inside the White House," unless he doesn't, in which case, he won't.
--Next there is another "senior Democratic source" who sizes up the possibility that Gibbs might step down, to be replaced by either Bill Burton or Jay Carney, by saying, "That's a choice that will need to be made quickly." Really? You don't say! This "senior Democratic source," whose affiliation with any other group of aforementioned senior Democratic sources is unknown, is said to have made a remark in this fashion because "there is a growing sense inside the White House that Gibbs's departure and the other staff moves are imminent." Again, many of those "staff moves" have been "imminent" for months, so to say that there is a "growing sense" of this doesn't seem to be of much news value. I have a growing sense that the sky may darken as the sun sets in the west, for instance.
--Suddenly, cell mitosis occurs, because the "senior Democratic source" has become "the two senior Democratic sources." Despite the fact that Henry appears to be witnessing a biological X-File occurring before his very eyes, he remains steadfast in his exploration of the possibility that these long-vacant positions might be filled very soon, unless they are filled later.
--Eventually, the "these Democratic sources" that magically multiplied from a single "senior Democratic source" fade as a new, less-specifically enumerated group of Democratic sources arrive on the scene to talk about Daley. Collectively, they assert that Daley "may not want to uproot from Chicago," but as individuals, they have broadly contradictory takes on the matter. One of the sources insists that Daley is a "loyalist" to Obama who'd take the position if asked. Another says that Daley and Obama aren't actually that close.
--But before we can process this, we are told that another "senior Democratic source" says that "Rouse is actually still the leading contender for the post." This is said to be "contrary to some of the speculation that has suggested the job is Daley's to lose," but at this point, it's impossible to keep track of what speculation this actually contradicts.
--Speaking of contradiction, moments after asserting that Rouse is "the leading contender" who can "write his own ticket," the same source said Rouse is "ambivalent," adding, "he has told the President if there's a better way to do it, he's willing to step aside. But the President has made it clear to Pete it's his if he wants it." This new information tends to devalue the earlier assertion, made by the same source. Further devaluing ensues: Rouse is said, by the same source, to prefer a "behind the scenes" role, and the chances of him taking the position are "50-50." So, Rouse, leading contender for the job, can "write his own ticket," if he wants to, but he probably doesn't want to, in which case he won't.
--Finally, other sources assert that Ron Klain, outgoing chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, will, at some point be replaced, possibly by Alan Hoffman, unless he is replaced by someone who is not Alan Hoffman.
Now, as a White House changes up personnel, there are some interesting matters to ponder. How will new blood affect the character of the White House? What does it mean in terms of policy priority? What can be gained, in terms of political strategy, if one choice is made over another? Needless to say, this article doesn't spend a blessed moment pondering any of the matters that may impact the lives of ordinary Americans. All we can say, after reading this piece, is that Henry is sure there will be a "future," and, according to shifting array of anonymous sources, there is a possibility that in that future, there are events which may or may not occur.
Maybe Schrodinger's cat will be taking over as White House Chief of Staff, assuming it is still alive? At this point, it's a possibility, because I have just asserted it. Hold on ... okay, BREAKING: sources close to my desk tell me that there is a remote possibility that these positions may be filled by a cat from a famous academic thought exercise. PLEASE RETWEET.
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