Triangulation in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1:
Vice President Biden named former Clinton administration domestic policy adviser Bruce Reed as his new chief of staff on Friday, the latest move in a reshuffle that has brought several Clinton-era veterans into key roles in the Obama White House.
Reed, a leading centrist Democrat, will assume the role being vacated by Ron Klain. The announcement comes as a number of senior advisers depart – Klain is leaving to run the business and philanthropic interests of former AOL chairman Steve Case – and just days after former Clinton commerce secretary William Daley took over as White House chief of staff.
Reed’s hiring suggests a potential rightward ideological shift as well, especially on economics. Along with Daley and former Clinton economics adviser Gene Sperling, Reed encouraged free trade and deficit reduction during the economic boom years of the 1990s. While their return has triggered dismay among liberals, it has delighted moderates who believe the administration needed more experienced hands to manage the economy for the next two years.
Most recently, Reed was executive director of President Obama’s deficit reduction panel. If any serious talks over a budget deal or Social Security are taken up, Biden is likely to be in the lead, and having Reed at his side could boost the chances of success, several Democratic officials said.
“If the budget process leads to negotiations on a broader budget deal, Bruce is extremely well suited to play a critical role in helping forge an agreement,” said one official who worked closely with the deficit commission. “The Senate would be the center of gravity for brokering a budget or Social Security deal, which is Biden’s domain and where Bruce has the best relationships coming out of the commission. The fiscal commission achieved the support that it did in large part because Bruce worked hard to earn the trust of commissioners in both parties and figure out how to address the priorities and concerns of both parties.”
As indicated in the story, liberals have already gone on the warpath regarding the selections. Their objections are likely to be ignored completely by an Administration that realizes–however belatedly after the 2010 midterm elections–that this is still a center-right country, and that President Obama needs to gravitate to the center in order to get re-elected in 2012. Compounding the insult to the Left, the elevation of people like Bruce Reed represents the re-emergence of the Robert Rubin wing of the Democratic party, which is pretty remarkable given the way in which the Robert Rubin wing of the Democratic party got trashed by the Left in the aftermath of the financial crisis. One wonders if it is clear now to the likes of Paul Krugman, Robert Kuttner, and Joseph Stiglitz that however much polemical hell they can and do raise on behalf of their pet projects, when it comes to actual policymaking, they are, and likely always will be, on the outside looking in.