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Ron Klain is Quitting

Many news outlets are reporting that White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain is going to step down soon. The New York Times had the scoop first. His departure will come at an awkward moment, with a special counsel investigating Joe Biden for having secret documents in his house and office during a period when he was a private citizen. In addition, the House Republicans will soon be bombarding the White House with requests covering everything up to and including what Biden's dog, Major, has for breakfast. Klain lasted longer than any initial Democratic chief of staff in 50 years, but he is burned out and just moving on. There is no scandal or other reason why he has to leave. He just needs a rest from a very grueling job.

Biden has been aware of Klain's plans for some time now and is actively seeking a replacement. The chief of staff manages a very large staff and controls the flow of information to the president. It is a hugely important and powerful job, far more so than that of the vice president. People who were considered as replacements included Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, former Delaware governor Jack Markell, senior WH staffers Susan Rice and Steven Ricchetti, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and former COVID-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients. The Washington Post is reporting that Zients will get the job. Despite the enormous power of the job, the chief of staff does not require Senate confirmation because the chief does not run any government department or agency and is not in the chain of command of any of them.

Zients has not been in politics very long. His background is as an entrepreneur and management consultant, not as a politician or staffer to politicians. He made millions in the private sector by taking multiple companies public. He may not be of much use in Biden's 2024 campaign, but he could help run the government while Biden is out on the trail. People who know him say he is an outstanding manager who engenders deep loyalty in the people he manages. Given the large and unruly staff the chief manages, being able to get all the noses pointed in the same direction and having the noses love you while doing so, might not be a bad thing for Biden to have around. Zients doesn't know much about policy, but knowing policy isn't really part of the job description. Getting dozens of smart and independent people on the WH staff to carry out the President's policies is. Some people are comparing Zients to Jack Lew, who kinda ran the government when Barack Obama was distracted by his reelection campaign in 2012. Back then, David Plouffe was the campaign guy, a role Anita Dunn may fulfill for Biden in 2024.

Klain has many achievements he can be proud of. He helped shepherd multiple bills through Congress, including the COVID-19 relief plan, the infrastructure bill, the CHIPS Act, and more. He was also deeply involved in distributing COVID-19 vaccines and in formulating the plan to forgive some student debt. He also defended the administration vigorously on social media.

In contrast, by this point in his presidency, Donald Trump was on his third chief and more than half of his original cabinet were driven out by scandals and/or interpersonal conflicts. None of Biden's cabinet members have left.

Klain's wife, Monica Medina, is an assistant secretary in the State Dept. There is no rumor of her leaving, so he will probably stay in town. Klain has served all the Democratic presidents since 1992 as well as many high-ranking Democrats in Congress, so he is a very experienced Democratic old hand. He will have no trouble finding another job in D.C. when is ready to look. In fact, plenty of organizations will no doubt be reaching out to him fairly soon, if not already. And undoubtedly offering salaries a tad bit higher than the $180,000 he's pulling down right now. (V)

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