White House musical chairs

Staff changes inside an administration are expected, and resignations often come in waves. Jones is the latest in a ser

US National Security Adviser Jim Jones has resigned.  It’s no big surprise, even if the timing is a bit strange.

The 66-year old Jones seemed like the odd man out at the close knit White House.  Many of Barack Obama’s inner circle have worked with him for years or are life-long friends of the president.  Jones, however, wasn’t either. 

Jones’s departure was expected.  He reportedly told his staff he’d leave by the end of the year.  Then the new Bob Woodward book, “Obama’s Wars” came out last month.

According to Woodward, Jones criticised the administration, calling the inner circle the “Mafia” and “Politburo”.  His comments to Woodward could have sped up his announcement because the president is not one to tolerate leaks and disloyalty. 

Jones was chosen for the position because the administration needed to beef up its national security credentials. Woodward also wrote in his most recent book that Obama wasn’t knowledgeable about the military, that he “possibly knew as little about it as any major presidential candidate in years”.

So having someone like Jones on the team was seen as an asset.  He was a seasoned Marine Corps General who had been Nato Supreme Allied Commander.  His resume added national security gravitas to the administration. 

Insider replacement

Whatever tensions there may have been before he resigned, the announcement in the Rose Garden was friendly. The president’s schedule was updated late in the morning to make the early afternoon announcement. Obama praised Jones’s tenure, saying he “has been a dedicated public servant and a friend to me”.

Jones’s replacement will be Tom Donilon, the Deputy National Security Adviser. Obama noted in his remarks that Donilon is already “one of my closest advisers”.

Donilon is a longtime Democratic operative who is part of the inner circle. He’s worked for Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for years and was reportedly on the short list for Chief of Staff when another key member of the White House, Rahm Emanuel, left last week for a run for Mayor of Chicago.  Emanuel was also replaced temporarily at least, with another White House insider, Pete Rouse.

US foreign policy won’t likely change because of the new NSC Adviser.  As Obama said, “Over the last two years, there is not a single critical national security issue that has not crossed Tom’s desk.” His vision and style are already part of American foreign policy. 

Staff changes inside an administration are expected, and resignations often come in waves. Jones is the latest in a series of them, including Emanuel, and three of Obama’s top economic advisers.  Next year, it’s expected Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and senior aide David Axelrod will also move on.

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