Communication Breakdown

Why would Obama's female communications director leave so soon?

The headline went across the wires Tuesday afternoon: "Senior White House Aide Leaving for New Post."

First thought was: "Really? So soon into the Obama administration -- and someone's leaving?"

Second thought was: "Wow! Who is it? Robert Gibbs? David Axelrod?"

Nope, it's the communications director! Oh, right! That would be, uh, um...who was that again?

It's not Gibbs: He's the press secretary.

It's not Axelrod: He's got that neat title of "special assistant to the president."

So who is this person that we've never heard about? Well, the name is Ellen Moran. Sure! Ellen Moran, who we remember from...uh, hmmm...can't quite place it now.

Which is probably the reason she's leaving. White House Communications Director has traditionally been a big job, carrying with it a fair bit of prestige. People who have held it in the past include Pat Buchanan, George Stephanopolous, David Gergen, Dan Bartlett, etc.

These people, if not in front of the cameras on an everyday basis, were mentioned enough times that they became household names to those that follow politics on a regular basis. They had some serious clout in shaping the administration's short and long-term messages.

Yet Moran is giving that up to become chief of staff to the commerce secretary? That's odd.

Or maybe it's not.

As Wikipedia points out: "Historically, the position of White House Communications Director is typically given to a senior public relations staff member of the candidate's campaign staff. Typically this is either the Deputy Campaign Manager or the Campaign Communications Director."

But that wasn't Moran: She was previously the executive director for EMILY's List, which raises money for pro-choice women running for office. Unlike Gibbs, Axelrod or campaign strategist David Plouffe (who remains in the private sector), she was never part of the Obama campaign inner circle. Unlike Karen Hughes in both the 2000 campaign and first Bush term, she never got to be part of the administration inner circle either.

Which raises an interesting point: Not counting Michelle Obama, are there any women with significant influence in the Obama inner White House camp? Obviously, Hillary Clinton and Janet Napolitano have high-profile administration jobs, but it's not apparent that they have the president's ear in the way that either Hughes or Condoleezza Rice did in the Bush administration.

There's Valerie Jarrett (who was Obama's preferred choice for his Senate seat), but she seems to operate primarily behind the scenes.
Interesting that a Republican White House would seemingly have more women in seriously influential positions than would its Democratic successor.

Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots.

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
Contact Us