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The President, His Men, and His Women

By Dan Froomkin
12:40 PM ET, 03/ 5/2009

Elizabeth Drew looks back on Obama's first 30 days in the New York Review of Books and offers these observations on Obama's management style: "Seeking to avoid the mistakes of the early Clinton era, Obama concluded that, unlike Clinton, he didn't want to hold the numerous meetings that can chew up so much of the president's time. Instead, according to his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, Obama's style is to drop by an aide's office -- a restless man, he roams the White House corridors -- or stop an aide in a hallway and ask, 'How are you coming on that thing we were talking about?' Gibbs says, 'The worst thing is not have an answer.' Asked what happens then, Gibbs replied, 'He gets that disappointed parent look, and then you better go find an answer.'

"Obama's publicly announced schedules have large gaps; he makes it a point to set aside time to step back and think -- sometimes going for a long, solitary walk around the White House grounds -- or make calls, or read. A night owl, he usually takes work home, to be studied after he's tucked his daughters into bed. Aides say he turns around paperwork fairly quickly, responding to and signing off on their memoranda....

"Of Obama's approach to governing, Gibbs says, 'He's not by any stretch a micromanager.' According to another close observer, 'The boys are running the White House' -- by which he meant chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, chief campaign strategist and now senior adviser David Axelrod, and deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, who was also chief of staff of the campaign. Gibbs is often called in for advice, because he's smart and he knows Obama's mind well. This cast of characters -- Axelrod has the prized if unglamorous office adjoining the President's study -- gives a strong political tone to the Obama White House."

Over at CNN, Jessica Yellin and Kevin Bohn profile Melody Barnes, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, who is in charge of today's health summit.

"Barnes is one of a handful of power players in a White House whose key advisers are predominantly male. But she says there isn't a struggle to be heard in the White House.

"Barnes said Obama's selection of people for his inner circle like longtime friend Valerie Jarrett sends a signal.

"'He respects her. He respects the other women that he's brought around. So he sends the signal to everyone that we all have to sit at this table, we put ideas on the table, we debate them, people have hard-charging debates, but at the same time, we respect one another. And when we walk out of the room, we are a team.'"

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