It was just two weeks ago that I explained why OMB directors in general are seen as good White House chiefs of staff by the presidents they serve.
In a very strong piece in today's The Washington Post, Ezra Klein explained why one particular former OMB Director -- Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels -- was never going to be the strong presidential candidate some were saying he would be and is not the savior some in the GOP are looking for.
Ezra's analysis about Daniels can easily be broadened to OMB directors in general: With very rare exceptions they're just not right for today's presidential politics. The top five reasons are:
The word "good"in the headline above is not a judgment call on the tenure of the three OMB directors/White House chiefs of staff this post is about. Instead, the headline is about this question: Why do OMB directors appear to the presidents they serve as a "good" choice for chief of staff?
This is a question that was asked repeatedly this past week after the third consecutive administration replaced an existing COS with someone who at the time was the director of the Office of Management and Budget. In case you're too young or too old to remember, the OMB-to-WH switches were Leon Panetta (Clinton), Josh Bolton (Bush 43) and, now, Jack Lew.
The same basic question is often asked by baseball analysts and fans about why catchers frequently become managers.
Washington is a place where it's both important to know someone in power and to be seen as knowing someone who is rumored to be in line to be in power. It's not at all surprising, therefore, that, with the White House's announcement earlier this week that Jack Lew will become the administration's next chief of staff, there's been lots of very public speculation about who will replace him as the director of the Office of Management and Budget.
First, in general it's going to be difficult for any presidential nominee for anything to get confirmed this year. Why would the White House want to undertake a series of bruising confirmation fights in Senate committees and on the Senate floor that, because of GOP filibusters, are highly unlikely to result in anyone actually getting confirmed.
Second, it's also not clear who currently outside government is going to want to put his or her life on hold to go through the very painful vetting process and even more painful confirmation process for a job that may not exist after noon on Inauguration Day.
Over at OMB Watch, Sam Rosen-Amy has an interesting piece on how the White House could use a ruling from Bush 43 to name Jack Lew the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.
The key is The Vacancies Act. But first, a brief summary of why this is even a question.
Rob Nabors, the OMB deputy director, left that post last year to move to the White House. The position has remained officially vacant since Nabors left and the work has been delegated to an acting deputy. Peter Orszag, the OMB director, left that position at the end of July.
The president has nominated Jack Lew, who was the last OMB director in the Clinton administration and is currently deputy secretary of State for management, which is a Senate-confirmed position, to take over OMB. Lew was approved with substantial bi-partisan support in committee, but Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has put a hold on the nomination because of differences with the White House on off-shore drilling.
Has anyone else noticed that new OMB Director Jim Nussle is no where to be found?
Think about this. It's the last week of the fiscal year, no fiscal 2008 appropriations have yet been enacted, Congress has to pass an increase in the debt ceiling by next Monday, and Alan Greenspan has been everywhere the past week saying terrible things about the Bush budget and economic plan.
And Jim Nussle hasn't been seen or heard from.