Obama's Behind-the-Scenes Brain Trust

Washington Matters

Obama's Behind-the-Scenes Brain Trust

Who will have Obama's ear when he takes over as president? There are several numbers that will be on speed dial at the Oval Office beyond the more obvious big-hitter types like Robert Rubin, Colin Powell, Paul Volcker and former Sen. Tom Daschle. The bench of lesser known advisers is deep. ...

Valerie Jarrett has been a long time friend of the Obamas from Chicago days when she worked on city commissions and in the mayor's office. She'll serve as a White House adviser with a broad portfolio. She'll have nearly unparallelled access to Obama, as well as to the future First Lady. That was evident in the campaign.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has been a friend and Senate mentor to Obama. He was early out of the gate in privately urging Obama to run and among the first to publicly endorse him, despite most everyone saying Hillary Clinton was a sure winner. Durbin is majority whip in the Senate, knowledgeable about legislative levers to pull, close to committee chairs, etc. He's well placed to advise Obama on most any legislation he wants to push or block.

Paul Krugman and Austan Goolsbee. One from Princeton, the other from University of Chicago. They'll advise Obama on economic matters. Krugman is also a liberal columnist for the New York Times and recent winner of Nobel prize in economics. He favors a large stimulus plan. Goolsbee crafted Obama's health care plan and middle class tax cut to be paid for by raising taxes on the wealthiest.


John Rogers is a mutual fund manager, economics writer and Chicago friend of the Obamas. He'll be an informal adviser on finance, urban renewal and federal-state relations. He's founder of Ariel Capital Management.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) has worked with Obama in his short tenure in the Senate on the Foreign Relations Committee. Lugar could be invaluable as a liaison and advocate with Senate Republicans. If he backs Obama on any foreign policy issue, it will help bring other Republicans on board.

Lawrence Korb, a deputy defense secretary under Ronald Reagan and an avowed critic of the Iraq war, will be on hand to provide background advice on national security and foreign relations. So, too, will former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) who along with Obama has worked losely with Lugar on the Russian loose nukes issue.

John Doerr, a Silicon Valley technology investment guru, will be on hand when Obama wants advice on where and how to steer federal investment in green technology research.


Charles Ogletree and Laurence Tribe, both Harvard law professors who had Obama in their classes, will help with constitutional issues, habeas corpus, domestic intelligence gathering boundaries, prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and limits on executive branch powers and executive privilege in relation to other branches.

Bill Daley, former secretary of Commerce for Bill Clinton, will be called upon for advice on trade and trade agreements.

Julius Genachowski, a technology entrepreneur and former counsel for the Federal Communications Commission will be a sounding board for Obama on telecommunications policy. Also, Broderick Johnson, a lobbyist, former vice president with ATT and a White house legislative liasion for Bill Clinton, will be an adviser on various technology policies and is helping Obama on transition decisions.