Ben Smith has a great profile of the Obama economic adviser up today. I particularly love this exchange from Ben's interview with him:
“I like defending the president’s policies — he’s on the right track, and there’s a certain level of combativeness from an old debate guy, especially on cable, where they’re into that,” Goolsbee said in an interview in his bare office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Reminded of Obama’s dismissals of the cable news cycle, he shrugged.
“He’s a bigger man than I am,” he said of the president.
One of Goolsbee's most telling biographical details, I think, is his career as a college debater. As Ben notes, Goolsbee's rhetorical skills have made him a go-to surrogate for Obama on television. I think they've also made him a real powerhouse within the administration. This wouldn't necessarily have been obvious a few months ago, at least if you were deducing from his formal place in the White House hierarchy. But pretty much everyone you talk to in the administration these days offers some version of, "Oh yeah, Austan's very involved" or "Austan is a force to be reckoned with" or "Austan makes himself heard." (These are near-verbatim quotes--my memory may be slightly off...)
In fact, it's worth noting that two of the administration's most influential economists--Larry Summers and Goolsbee--were both elite college debaters.