Monday, July 31, 2017

After Reince

In an unprecedented move, President Donald Trump hired Anthony Scaramucci as communications director over the objections of Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Scaramucci has publicly and humiliatingly criticized Priebus, calling him a "paranoid schizophrenic" who will be pushed out soon, and let it be known that the only person he reports to is the President himself, not the chief of staff -- a stunning arrangement for a communications director and a sign of debilitating weakness for a sitting chief of staff.
Reince Priebus has discovered quicker than most what all chiefs come to learn eventually: that the White House chief of staff position is the most difficult and thankless job in government. In a job where burnout and short tenures are the norm, reports abound that President Donald Trump, frustrated by the new administration's numerous missteps, may replace Priebus in what would be a record-breakingly short tenure for a chief of staff in the nation's history (save for those chiefs that finished out the end of an administration). In fact, rumors abound that Anthony Scaramucci himself is being considered as a replacement for Priebus. This would be a disaster. A creature of Wall Street, Scaramucci has never worked in government, the White House, or the West Wing.
For the rest of this CNN Opinion piece, click here.

White House Chiefs of Staff, 1969-2017

Below is a list of modern White House Chiefs of Staff (1969-2017) compiled for a book I am co-authoring on the topic.

Chief of Staff                                     Tenure             President                     Party
Harry Robbins (H.R.) Haldeman        1969-73           Nixon                          Republican
Alexander M. Haig, Jr.                       1973-74           Nixon                          Republican
Donald H. Rumsfeld                          1974-75           Ford                            Republican
Richard M. Cheney                             1975-77           Ford                            Republican
William Hamilton M. Jordan              1979-80           Carter                          Democratic
Jack H. Watson, Jr.                             1980-81           Carter                          Democratic
James A. Baker III                              1981-85           Reagan                                    Republican
Donald T. Regan                                 1985-87           Reagan                                    Republican
Howard H. Baker, Jr.                          1987-88           Reagan                                    Republican
Kenneth M. Duberstein                      1988-89           Reagan                                    Republican
John H. Sununu                                  1989-91           G.H.W. Bush              Republican
Samuel K. Skinner                              1991-92           G.H.W. Bush              Republican
James A. Baker III                              1992-93           G.H.W. Bush              Republican
Thomas F. McLarty III                       1993-94           Clinton                        Democratic
Leon E. Panetta                                  1994-97           Clinton                        Democratic
Erskine B. Bowles                              1997-98           Clinton                        Democratic
John D. Podesta                                  1998-01           Clinton                        Democratic
Andrew H. Card, Jr.                           2001-06           G.W. Bush                  Republican
Joshua B. Bolten                                 2006-09           G.W. Bush                  Republican
Rahm I. Emanuel*                              2009-10           Obama                         Democratic
William M. Daley                                2011-12           Obama                         Democratic
Jacob J. Lew                                       2012-13           Obama                         Democratic
Denis R. McDonough                         2013-17           Obama                         Democratic
Reinhold R. “Reince” Priebus            2017                 Trump                          Republican
John F. Kelly                                       2017-p             Trump                          Republican

* After Emanuel left his post to run for mayor of Chicago, Senior Adviser Peter M. Rouse served as interim chief of staff from October 1, 2010, to January 13, 2011.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

White House Deputy Chiefs of Staff, 1981-2017

Below is a list of individuals who have served as deputy chief of staff in the White House from 1981-2017. I compiled this information for the book I am co-authoring about the White House Chief of Staff and Office of Chief of Staff. This chart does not exist elsewhere as far as I know.

Chief of Staff
Deputy Chiefs of Staff[1]
Ronald W. Reagan
James A. Baker III
Michael K. Deaver [01/20/81-05/10/85]

Donald T. Regan
Michael K. Deaver [01/20/81-05/10/85]
W. Dennis Thomas [07/15/85-05/87][2]

Howard H. Baker, Jr.
Kenneth M. Duberstein [03/23/87-07/01/88]

Kenneth M. Duberstein
M.B. Oglesby, Jr. [07/05/88-01/20/89]
George H.W. Bush
John H. Sununu
Andrew H. Card, Jr. [01/20/89-02/03/92][3]
James W. Cicconi [01/89-01/91][4]

Samuel K. Skinner
Andrew H. Card, Jr. [01/20/89-02/03/92]
William Henson Moore, III [02/03/92-08/23/92]

James A. Baker III
Robert B. Zoellick [08/23/92-01/20/93]
William J Clinton
Thomas F. McLarty III
Mark D. Gearan [01/20/93-05/93]
Roy M. Neel [05/93-11/93]
Philip Lader [12/93-10/03/94]
Harold M. Ickes [01/03/94-01/20/97]

Leon E. Panetta
Harold M. Ickes (Policy and Political Affairs) [01/03/94-01/20/97]
Philip Lader [12/93-10/03/94]
Erskine B. Bowles (White House Operations) [10/03/94-01/11/96]
Evelyn S. Lieberman (White House Operations) [01/11/96-12/96]

Erskine B. Bowles
Sylvia M. Mathews [01/97-05/98]
Maria Echaveste [05/29/98-01/20/01]
John D. Podesta [01/97-10/20/98]

John D. Podesta
Maria Echaveste [05/29/98-01/20/01]
Stephen J. Ricchetti [11/98-01/20/01]
George W. Bush
Andrew H. Card, Jr.
Joseph W. Hagin (Operations) [01/20/01-07/20/08]
Joshua B. Bolten (Policy) [01/20/01-06/26/03]
Harriet E. Miers (Policy) [06/27/03-02/03/05]
Karl C. Rove (Policy) [02/03/05-08/31/07]

Joshua B. Bolten
Joseph W. Hagin (Operations) [01/20/01-07/20/08]
Blake L. Gottesman (Operations) [07/20/08-01/20/09]
Karl C. Rove (Planning) [02/03/05-08/31/07]
Joel D. Kaplan (Policy) [04/19/06-01/20/09]
Barack H. Obama
Rahm I. Emanuel
James A. Messina (Operations) [01/20/09-01/26/11]
Mona K. Sutphen (Policy) [01/20/09-01/26/11]

William M. Daley
Alyssa Mastromonaco (Operations) [01/27/11-present]
Nancy-Anne DeParle (Policy) [01/27/11-01/25/13]

Jacob J. Lew
Alyssa Mastromonaco (Operations) [01/27/11-present]
Nancy-Anne DeParle (Policy) [01/27/11-01/25/13]

Denis R. McDonough
Alyssa Mastromonaco (Operations) [01/27/11-05/14]
Anita J. Decker Breckenridge (Operations) [05/14-01/20/17]
Rob Nabors (Policy) [01/25/13-04/02/15]
Mark B. Childress (Planning) [01/12-05/22/14]
Kristie Canegallo (Implementation) [05/22/14-01/20/17]
Donald J. Trump
Reinhold R. “Reince” Priebus [01/20/17-present]
Joseph W. Hagin (Operations) [01/20/17-present]
Katie Walsh (Implementation) [01/20/17-present]
Rick A. Dearborn (Policy) [01/20/17-present]

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, staffers had the formal title “deputy chief of staff.”
[2] Official title was “Assistant to the President.”
[3] Official title was “Deputy to the Chief of Staff.”
[4] Official title was “Deputy to the Chief of Staff.”

Monday, February 27, 2017

POTUSProf's CNN Debut Talking Trump Administration's Executive Branch Appointments

My February 25, 2017, debut on CNN can be viewed here. Though I have a face made for radio, sometimes you just gotta do TV if asked...

Reince's Real Problem

“This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine” --President Donald J. Trump, February 16, 2017


It has been a very difficult first month for the fledgling Trump administration. To describe the situation as chaos, bedlam, dysfunction—whatever term you want to use to describe the situation in the White House—is not hyperbole, alternative facts, or fake news. It is reality.

The level and intensity of the chaos within the West Wing is unprecedented in the modern era. Unfortunately for Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, much of the responsibility for bringing order to the West Wing rests with him—the administrative equivalent of taming a pride of circus lions with neither chair nor whip.

For the rest of my op-ed that appeared on CNN, click here.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Whither or Wither White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus?

The following op-ed first appeared at CNN Opinion on January 25, 2017 

After a brutal first several days for the Trump administration, one has to ask: where was the White House Chief of Staff? Traditionally, the chief of staff performs a number of valuable roles for a president, from advising him on policy and politics to representing him to the media and Congress to making sure the administrative and policy processes run efficiently. But during this difficult first week for the Trump White House, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has been largely AWOL.

Continue reading...

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Veepstakes: The Case for Sherrod Brown

The presidential campaign season has reached a point where each of the party nominees need consider their most important decision of the entire campaign: whom to choose as their running mate for a position that is one heartbeat away from the presidency. Potential names are being floated currently in the media and personal info is being vetted by the campaigns. Both nominees will announce their running mates at or before their respective conventions in July. For a number of reasons, Secretary Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party, should strongly consider tapping Sherrod Brown, the senior Senator from Ohio. Here’s why.


1. Geography. The Electoral College works in a different manner than a typical election decided by popular vote. Rather, the general presidential election campaign is waged state-by-state in a dozen or less battleground states in an effort to win at least 270 total electoral votes. And no battleground state is more important than Ohio. Simply put, because of the electoral math, it is nearly impossible to win the White House without carrying Ohio. A Republican candidate has never done so; a Democrat hasn’t achieved that since 1960. Even though there is evidence that a running mate does not help carry their home state in the November election, it is possible that in a close election they could make a difference. Having won two elections for Secretary of State, as well as two U.S. Senate elections, Sherrod Brown has proven throughout his career that he is able to run an effective statewide campaign in Ohio.

2. Ideological-Counterbalancing. Secretary Clinton is disliked and distrusted by many in the progressive base who support her primary rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, and who view her as a conservative. Many Sanders’ supporters have indicated through polling and an unrelenting social media campaign that they will not vote for Clinton in the general election. Picking Sherrod Brown as running mate could help salve the wounds laid bare during a rough and tumble primary campaign. Despite being a loyal party insider, Brown is well-known, well-respected, and long supported by the Democratic Party’s progressive wing. He also has high name recognition, not only in Ohio, but also in the country among progressives as he is a frequent guest on MSNBC. Besides being popular with progressives, Brown is beloved by the blue collar and union crowd—a demographic presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has made inroads with during the primary season.

3. Background. Does the person being considered as running mate have the necessary experience, intelligence, and temperament to be an effective president from Day 1? This is the most important question any presidential nominee should ask but often they and the media fail to ask it. By virtue of his educational background, his years spent in both state and federal elected office, and his decades spent under the glare of the klieg lights on the national stage, Sherrod Brown is well-prepared to be president. With eight years in the Ohio legislature, eight years as Ohio Secretary of State, fourteen years in the U.S. House of Representatives, and nine years and counting in the U.S. Senate with membership on some of that institutions most influential committees, Brown’s credentials far surpass that of most recent presidents, vice presidents, and potential VPs being discussed in the 2016 election cycle.

For all of these reasons, Sherrod Brown would be a stellar pick for vice presidential running mate. This choice does not come without costs, however. Brown has repeatedly and publicly declared he does not have vice presidential aspirations and wants to remain in the Senate. Also, were the Clinton-Brown ticket to be successful in November, Brown would have to vacate his Senate seat by January 20 thus almost assuredly ceding the seat to a Republican who would be appointed by Governor John Kasich. However, surrendering one Senate seat to the Republican Party would be worth it for Democrats if it means that Brown could help Clinton carry Ohio and, more importantly, a highly-qualified individual would be serving as vice president. Protestations aside, I suspect that if asked, Sherrod Brown would do what he has always done during his long career in public service—serve the people of Ohio and the country as a whole and say yes.

This op-ed originally ran on on May 13, 2016, and in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. You can access the original here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fmr US Rep. Steve LaTourette Spends a Day at The University of Akron

On April 22, Former United States Representative Steve LaTourette (R-OH) spent the day at The University of Akron. A nine-term Congressman who represented a district in Northeast Ohio, LaTourette is president of the Washington-based McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies and more importantly heads up the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group which supports mainstream Republican candidates and office-holders, particularly against Tea Party and far-right primary challenges.

LaTourette spent the entire day at Akron, speaking at a luncheon sponsored by the Akron Press Club and co-sponsored by the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics and the new campus organization No Labels of Akron. After that, he spoke to undergraduate and graduate students in my American National Politics Seminar and later that evening visited with Dr. John Green's and Jerry Austin's Campaign Battleground class.

LaTourette is a breath of fresh air--no bullet points and candor at all times.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ohio, the Battleground States, and Candidate Visits During the 2012 Presidential Election

Here is some travel data from the 2012 presidential election. As you can see, Ohio led the way in combined candidate travel, followed by Virginia, Florida, Iowa, and Colorado.

Battleground state travel for 2012:

Obama Biden Obama-Biden Total Romney Ryan Romney-Ryan Total Campaigns Combined
CO 15 1 16 7 8 15 31
FL 15 4 19 13 9 22 41
IA 12 3 15 11 7 18 33
MI 2 0 2 2 1 3 5
MN 1 0 1 0 1 1 2
NV 10 1 11 5 4 9 20
NH 7 1 8 6 2 8 16
NM 1 0 1 1 0 1 2
NC 5 1 6 3 0 3 9
OH 21 3 24 15 16 31 55
PA 2 0 2 4 2 6 8
VA 21 3 24 11 9 20 44
WI 8 3 11 3 3 6 17

First term travel by POTUS to Ohio has steadily increased since the early 1980s:

Reagan 9
Bush 41 18
Clinton 18
Bush 43 30
Obama 37

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gerrymandering Future Presidential Elections

Every decade in years ending in zero, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. House of Representatives is reapportioned to account for population shifts within the country. As part of that process, many states choose, and some are forced, to redraw or redistrict the legislative lines of both the state and U.S. congressional districts. If this process proceeds in a state dominated by one party and not subject to a non-partisan commission, it usually results in obvious and exaggerated partisan gerrymandering—lines drawn to benefit one political party at the expense of the other. This process is considered constitutional as long as it does not harm the interests of minority or ethnic groupings.

Such was the case in Ohio, a state carried by Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and a state where 38% of voters in 2012 identified as Democrats (compared to 31% identifying as Republican) according to 2012 exit polls. Because of the gerrymandered congressional redistricting process carried out by the Ohio Republican Party in the Buckeye State in 2011, 12 of Ohio’s 16 (or 75%) U.S. congressional districts are held by Republicans representing relatively safe districts. Ohio voters have little chance to affect the outcome of congressional elections during the general election season. Most observers know, before the election even occurs, which party will win which congressional district. Regardless of which party benefits from gerrymandering, such a situation in a swing state like Ohio is an abomination. Ohio is not alone and a number of states were gerrymandered in an extreme fashion in 2011 (including Illinois which had Democrats drawing the lines).

As harmful to representative democracy as gerrymandering of legislative districts is, a new movement to essentially gerrymander future presidential elections is beginning. In a number of swing states in which the state legislature and gubernatorial office is controlled by the GOP, efforts are beginning to change the way electoral votes would be won and accounted for. In all states except Maine and Nebraska, electoral votes are currently awarded in a winner-take-all format—i.e., whichever presidential candidate wins the popular vote in a particular state wins all the electoral votes. However, in a number of battleground states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin there have been rumblings from GOP elected and election officials that perhaps it is time to alter that accounting method. In Virginia, a full-fledged effort is underway. Why? Because these swing states, despite their swing state status, have been trending towards the Democratic Party for a number of years and all were won by Obama in the last two elections. By shifting the awarding of electoral votes from a winner-take-all format to one based on the winner of gerrymandered congressional districts, a state party could alter the outcome of a presidential election in that state and potentially change the outcome of the presidential election in the country.

Using Ohio as an example, had such a congressional district system been in place for 2012, President Obama would have received just six of Ohio’s eighteen total electoral votes—he carried the four Democratic districts and would have received two more electoral votes (representing Ohio’s two senate seats) for carrying the whole state. Add up potential electoral vote losses in other swing states for Obama and it is a matter of basic arithmetic that the 2012 electoral vote total would have been much closer than the 332-206 result. In fact, Huffington Post crunched the numbers for the entire country. In 2012, had all states utilized the congressional district method currently used by Maine and Nebraska, the electoral vote result would have been: Obama 265 - Romney 273. This despite the fact that Obama would have won a clear popular vote victory. 

Will this effort to gerrymander the presidential election succeed? With media attention and increased public awareness, such schemes to game future presidential elections will likely fail. But it is unclear whether this issue will receive the attention it deserves over the next three years to stave off a successful effort.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Pulling the Plug on Politico's Arena

Well I gotta say I was shocked when I received the email (see below) authored by Jon Harris and Jim VandeHei telling me that now "was a good time to put the Arena feature to rest." After all, Politico Arena contributor's like myself do not get compensated (at least I didn't) and Arena was popular enough this election season alone to account for "12 million page views" according to Politico.

So why kill it? I suspect it has something to do with the fact that Politico "will be discussing different ways that outside opinion journalism can fit creatively in a site that remains, in terms of the work of our own editors and reporters, steadfastly committed to ideological neutrality." But wasn't the purpose of the Arena to allow for the exchange of opinion and ideas? Perhaps we'll never know why Politico decided to go in this direction but I suspect at some point we'll figure it out. I hope something comparable fills the void or that Politico will rethink their decision.

Here is the unedited email:

A Note to Arena Contributors –

We began the Arena feature – conceived to be a kind of rolling, real-time op-ed page – just over four years ago, in the final two months of the 2008 campaign.

Over these four years Arena has hosted – thanks to the intelligence and good will of contributors – thousands of constructive, serious, provocative and civil debates on issues facing Washington and the nation. Your submissions often made news--picked up  by reporters and columnists at other publications.

Arena's launch reflected a spirit of innovation at our young publication – still only six years old. That spirit, which continues to guide us, pushes us to a certain healthy restlessness. As we contemplated the publication's future in the wake of the recent election, POLITICO editors decided it is time to think more about the role of outside opinion on our site and how to present it to maximum impact. In that light, it seemed to us that now was a good time to put the Arena feature to rest.

We are proud of its content – and the 12 million page views Arena generated in just this last presidential campaign – and want to push forward with something new before the feature becomes familiar and loses any edge.

In the months ahead, our editors, led by POLITICO Editor-at-Large Bill Nichols, will be discussing different ways that outside opinion journalism can fit creatively in a site that remains, in terms of the work of our own editors and reporters, steadfastly committed to ideological neutrality.

In addition to the thanks we give to all you as contributors, we'd like to thank the three terrifically smart and conscientious people who have served as Arena moderators these past four years – Fred Barbash, David Mark, and Erika Lovley.

We look forward to enlisting you in more conversations and debates about issues of the day on POLITICO in our post-Arena future.

With gratitude,

John Harris
Jim VandeHei

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