WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has chosen Brian Deese, a veteran White House aide and a deputy director in his budget office, to replace John Podesta as a senior adviser and presidential whisperer, White House officials said Wednesday.
The choice signals a generational change at the White House and a shift from a well-known Washington operative to a trusted insider.
White House officials said Deese, 36, would assume his new role when Podesta departs as expected in mid-February. While Deese will advise on a variety of issues, White House officials said his emphasis would be carrying out Obama’s energy policy and climate change initiatives.
Deese has a long history with Obama and is one of the few remaining White House officials who were with Obama during the 2008 campaign. As a 31-year-old special assistant to the president for economic policy, he helped craft the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler — a then controversial governmental intervention in a major U.S. industry.
He served as acting director of the Office of Management and Budget and, during his tenure at the White House’s National Economic Council, developed an expertise in housing. For all his work on economic policy, however, Deese is not a trained economist. He has a law degree from Yale.
“Brian is kind of the whole package — policy, strategy, insight to legislative and public affairs matters — and that’s what the president was looking for,” Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, said in an interview Wednesday.
Officials credited Deese with leading the policy planning for Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday and for developing the two-week-long rollout of the initiatives contained in the speech.
McDonough and Podesta said Deese began to emerge as Podesta’s replacement as early as last summer, when Podesta praised his work during one of McDonough’s periodic strolls on the White House South Lawn.
Gene Sperling, the former director of the National Economic Council, called Deese “the rock star of policy development in the White House,” and said many Obama aides considered it a coup that Obama managed to keep Deese in the White House.
Podesta carried a varied portfolio with an emphasis on energy policy. He also was a key figure behind Obama’s executive actions last year that ranged from modest steps on education to broad initiatives on immigration and climate change.
Podesta said Deese’s experience makes him “a particularly good choice to give advice to Denis and the president about how to roll forward and add to the momentum that we began during my tenure here.”
Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and respected strategist, joined the White House staff as a senior counselor to Obama in December 2013 with the understanding he would serve no more than a year. He came into the White House as Obama’s health care law tried to shake itself off from a disastrous enrollment rollout and as the president worked to re-establish his agenda going into a midterm election year.
Podesta is expected to become Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign chairman should she decide to run for president in 2016.
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