Dan Pfeiffer: Senior Political Advisor to the President
A low-profile aide to President Obama will soon be managing the public face of his Administration. Dan Pfeiffer was named the next White House communications director on Nov. 10, following the announcement that current communications chief Anita Dunn will step down by the end of the year. At 33, Pfeiffer has already worked for half-a-dozen prominent Democrats. He will be Obama’s third communications director, following Ellen Moran (now a Commerce Department official) and Dunn. Though not a familiar name or face, Pfeiffer has been an important presence in Obama’s inner circle since the early days of his presidential campaign.
“Shut up! He said what?”
— On hearing John McCain observe that “the fundamentals of the economy are strong” on Sept. 15, 2008 — the day Lehman Brothers collapsed. (New York Times, Nov. 16, 2008)
“We did not do ‘cocktail-party interviews.’ These are interviews that you agree to because you were always bumping into the reporter at cocktail parties, and they keep asking for the candidate’s time. We could laugh every time our opponents would do them.”
— Citing an advantage of headquartering the Obama campaign in Chicago rather than Washington. (New York Times, Dec. 17, 2008)
Soon after Inauguration Day, Dan Pfeiffer moved his blue blazers and Barneys ties from the back of the West Wing press area to more spacious digs across from the office of his predecessor and mentor David Plouffe.
“That is an awesome office,” Pfeiffer, now the president’s senior adviser, said as he gestured toward Plouffe’s old haunt on a recent afternoon. “It has windows.”
Pfeiffer may not inhabit Plouffe’s airy space, but he is expected to fill his expansive role. It is a big job for a 37-year-old who has spent his entire career as a communications operative, and whose breadth of experience is considerably narrower than that of predecessors whom Democrats revere as icons of Oval Office advice. But if Plouffe was the electoral engineer and David Axelrod before him the molder of President Obama’s message, Pfeiffer, who has outlasted nearly everyone else, is entrusted to safeguard the president’s image and legacy.
— The Lovely Plains (@DaRiverZkind) June 13, 2013
Samantha Power: US Ambassador to UN
After it was announced earlier this year that Samantha Power was leaving President Obama’s National Security Council, I e-mailed her to ask if she would grant an exit interview. Within the half-hour, she sent her regrets. “I think I’m going to have to pass at this stage, not least because—after getting reacquainted with my children—I may return to the administration, though haven’t made any decisions at this point,” Power wrote. “Sorry not to be more availing. As a former journalist, I know I should be the type you can count on.”
Now that Power has returned to the administration as (pending Senate confirmation) the U.N. ambassador, it’s her role as a former journalist that explains much of the excitement that has greeted her appointment in the press. Although America’s man (or woman) in Turtle Bay has often been an intellectual—from Arthur Goldberg to Daniel Patrick Moynihan to Jeane Kirkpatrick—we’ve never had an intellectual quite like Power, one whose dazzling first career was as a crusading, bearing-witness writer determined to make America live up to its ideals.
“From the day I met you and you told me that you had spent a chunk of your vacation reading a long, dark book on genocide,” Power said to the president, “I knew you were a different kind of leader, and I knew I wanted to work for you.”
In a sense, Power was bowing to the inevitable. That book, which won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Critics Circle Award, is what first brought her to national attention, and it remains the single piece of work for which she is best known. “A Problem From Hell” argued for military intervention to prevent genocide in the Balkans and Rwanda, and it left Power caricatured as a modern-day Joan of Arc. A couple of years ago, the National Interest placed Power on its cover with a headline that screamed, in blood-red type: “Interventionista!”
Inside the mind of Samantha Power http://t.co/7MQvaapJYD “I knew you were a different kind of leader, and I knew I wanted to work for you.”
— The Lovely Plains (@DaRiverZkind) June 9, 2013
Nicole Wong: Chief Privacy Officer
In March of last year, Nicole Wong, the deputy general counsel of Google, was notified that there had been a precipitous drop in activity on YouTube in Turkey, and that the press was reporting that the Turkish government was blocking access to YouTube for virtually all Turkish Internet users. Apparently unaware that Google owns YouTube, Turkish officials didn’t tell Google about the situation: a Turkish judge had ordered the nation’s telecom providers to block access to the site in response to videos that insulted the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which is a crime under Turkish law. Wong scrambled to figure out which videos provoked the court order and made the first in a series of tense telephone calls to Google’s counsel in London and Turkey, as angry protesters gathered in Istanbul. Eventually, Wong and several colleagues concluded that the video that sparked the controversy was a parody news broadcast that declared, “Today’s news: Kamal Ataturk was gay!” The clip was posted by Greek football fans looking to taunt their Turkish rivals.
Wong and her colleagues asked the Turkish authorities to reconsider their decision, pointing out that the original offending video had already been voluntarily removed by YouTube users. But after the video was taken down, Turkish prosecutors objected to dozens of other YouTube videos that they claimed insulted either Ataturk or “Turkishness.” These clips ranged from Kurdish-militia recruitment videos and Kurdish morality plays to additional videos speculating about the sexual orientation of Ataturk, including one superimposing his image on characters from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” “I remember one night, I was looking at 67 different Turkish videos at home,” Wong told me recently.
President Obama has picked Nicole Wong, Twitter’s legal director, to be the White House’s first chief privacy officer, CNET has learned.
Wong previously was a vice president and deputy general counsel at Google at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, where she managed a team of lawyers that worked with the company’s engineers to review products before they launched. The reviews included privacy, copyright, and removal requests, which earned her a nickname of “The Decider”
Gen. Kieth Alexander: NSA Director/Head of US Cyber-Command
General Keith B. Alexander, USA, is the Commander, U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) and Director, National Security Agency/Chief, Central Security Service (NSA/CSS), Fort George G. Meade, MD. As Commander, USCYBERCOM, he is responsible for planning, coordinating and conducting operations and defense of DoD computer networks as directed by USSTRATCOM. As the Director of NSA and Chief of CSS, he is responsible for a Department of Defense agency with national foreign intelligence, combat support, and U.S. national security information system protection responsibilities. NSA/CSS civilian and military personnel are stationed worldwide.
INSIDE FORT MEADE, Maryland, a top-secret city bustles. Tens of thousands of people move through more than 50 buildings—the city has its own post office, fire department, and police force. But as if designed by Kafka, it sits among a forest of trees, surrounded by electrified fences and heavily armed guards, protected by antitank barriers, monitored by sensitive motion detectors, and watched by rotating cameras. To block any telltale electromagnetic signals from escaping, the inner walls of the buildings are wrapped in protective copper shielding and the one-way windows are embedded with a fine copper mesh.
This is the undisputed domain of General Keith Alexander, a man few even in Washington would likely recognize. Never before has anyone in America’s intelligence sphere come close to his degree of power, the number of people under his command, the expanse of his rule, the length of his reign, or the depth of his secrecy. A four-star Army general, his authority extends across three domains: He is director of the world’s largest intelligence service, the National Security Agency; chief of the Central Security Service; and commander of the US Cyber Command.
— The Lovely Plains (@DaRiverZkind) June 13, 2013
Caroline Atkinson: Top Economic and National Security Adviser
President Barack Obama has selected Caroline Atkinson, a former spokeswoman at the International Monetary Fund, to serve as a top economic and national security adviser and be his representative at global economic summits, according to an administration official.
Atkinson, who is currently the senior Director for International Economics on the National Security Council staff, will replace Mike Froman, the president’s pick to be the next U.S. Trade Representative, once he’s confirmed to the post by the Senate, said the official, who asked not to be identified discussing the matter prior to an announcement.
The Finance Committee on June 11 unanimously sent Froman’s nomination to the full Senate, where a vote has yet to be scheduled.
“It’s very important for the U.S. to have someone like Caroline in this role,” said Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive officer of Pacific Investment Management Company, which manages the world’s biggest fixed-income fund.
“We are going through a major global realignment, economic interactions are changing, geopolitics is playing a much more important role, and multilateral institutions are not keeping up with the changes on the ground,” El-Erian, who has known Atkinson since 1983, said in an interview.