As if awaiting the midterm results weren’t enough to put Democrats on edge, Politico’s Eli Stokols and Alex Thompson reported Tuesday afternoon that White House chief of staff Ron Klain may soon depart the White House.
That would be very bad. Klain has been the Biden administration’s indispensable man. Indeed, some would argue he’s more indispensable than Joe Biden. Klain (whom I know slightly) is a decent, fiercely intelligent, highly experienced political operator whom Stokols and Thompson describe as:
... a chief of staff intent on managing the flow of information to the president and keeping a tight grip on power, advising everyone on everything and being involved in even the smallest policy and planning details. Whenever Biden is set to deliver a speech, one official explained, “Ron often has to see the [camera] shot beforehand.”
Inevitably, Klain has committed a few blunders, including, according to Politico, encouraging Biden to declare victory over Covid on July 4. Two months later, Biden said, “the pandemic is over.” One month after that your faithful correspondent flung his mask to the side, contracted Covid, and transmitted it to 13 other people, including two nonagenarians. (All recovered, but still, jeez.)
But easily more striking are Klain’s (and Biden’s) victories. As Klain himself said in August, Biden “has delivered the largest economic recovery plan since Roosevelt, the largest infrastructure plan since Eisenhower, the most judges confirmed since Kennedy, the second-largest healthcare bill since Johnson, and the largest climate change bill in history.” That doesn’t happen unless you have a highly competent chief of staff working alongside you. “He’s not just experienced, he’s strategic,” John Podesta, a former chief of staff for Bill Clinton, told my colleague Daniel Strauss in January. “He’s someone who can say ‘no’ to Biden.”
I know it’s a punishing job, but if Republicans take back the House (and, possibly the Senate), the boss’s job is going to get more difficult. Biden will need Klain more than ever, and there isn’t anyone else around who can do that job half so well.