Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean took broad swipes at what he called the "contempt" of some senior, departing White House advisers while, curiously, praising the possibility of former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley taking over as chief of staff.
Speaking at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast series, the former Vermont governor said he expected President Barack Obama's sometimes-rocky relationship with his base to improve once the aides who accompanied him to office left his administration. The problem, Dean stressed, was not that the president's policies had failed an ideological litmus test, but that he had surrounded by insiders who were dismissive of progressives and failed to change the business of governance.
"[M]ost of the people who were [causing the friction] are either out of the White House or going," Dean said. "So I guess I would say there is in process a huge senior staff shakeup going on at the White House. I think that is a very good thing and I think that will help."
While Obama may differ with progressives on certain policy issues, Dean said, "The core issue is the contempt, which not just the progressives were treated by but lots of people were treated by, by senior advisers around the president who have been here for 20 years and thought they knew everything and we knew nothing. That is a fundamental flaw in any kind of administration. As they say, 'Don't let the door hit you in the you-know-what on the way out.'"
The former governor, who has often been a pugnacious critic of the president, insisted that his critiques were not directed at departing press secretary Robert Gibbs or former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
"It is more than just Gibbs or Rahm. It was a whole mindset going on," he said.
But it was hard to read Dean's comments as being directed at anyone other than those top-ranking Obama aides with whom the onetime DNC chairman often feuded. After the breakfast, for instance, Dean addressed Emanuel directly, accusing him of "incredible shortsightedness" and a tactical orientation that made governing "all about the deal, not what was in the deal."
As a curious coda to his indictment of outgoing Obama hands, Dean lauded the prospect of Daley taking over the reins of White House operations. Hardly an Obama outsider, Daley has spent decades shuttling in and out of the world of Washington -- profiting from the connections he made and the stature he gained. He also has been an opponent of two chief components of the president's agenda, health care reform and a consumer financial protection agency. But Dean said that his ascendancy to the chief of staff role would be a positive development, in the process giving Daley the type of progressive validater that he has so far lacked.
"I don't agree with [him] on a lot of stuff politically, but I do think -- A, he is a grownup and B, he gets that you don't treat people like you know everything and they don't," said Dean. "If Bill Daley becomes the chief of staff, that is going to be a huge plus because he is outside of Washington, he sees things the way people outside Washington do. It is not a left or right issue."
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