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Political Notebook

Press chief is latest member of White House team heading for exit

January 6, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Robert Gibbs, the feisty press secretary whose job as President Obama’s chief spokesman has given him an outsize presence at the White House, said he is quitting for the less demanding, more lucrative role of giving paid speeches and advising the president from the outside world.

In a rapidly unfolding makeover, Obama was also closing in on a decision whether to tap William Daley, a former commerce secretary, for the vital job of White House chief of staff. Obama and Daley met at the White House yesterday.

The changes mean Obama is resetting his presidency as core members of his team head for the door, with senior adviser David Axelrod soon to follow.

Obama aides are promising stability, particularly as former campaign manager David Plouffe joins the senior staff on Monday, but even Gibbs acknowledged what’s happening is a “pretty major retooling.’’

“It’s a good time to get some fresh voices, including somebody up here,’’ Gibbs said from behind the briefing room lectern.

The crowd for his question and answer session with reporters was bigger than normal — the news media and Gibbs’s staff packed the room after word got out about his decision.

As attention centers on the new Congress, Obama is installing the leadership that will help define his agenda, the way he works with or combats Republicans, and his reelection style.

Obama is now deciding whether to stick with Pete Rouse as chief of staff, or bring in Daley, a banking executive who’s more comfortable in front of cameras. That decision appears largely to be a matter of whether Rouse, the interim chief, wants to stay.

The president is expected to name a new top economic adviser tomorrow, probably Treasury official Gene Sperling, replacing Lawrence Summers, who returned to Harvard University. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

Gates tries to head off deeper defense cuts
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert Gates is taking bold steps to try to spare the Pentagon from painful budget cuts, as newly elected Tea Party activists storm Capitol Hill pledging that no government program should be considered sacrosanct.

Gates was expected to announce today that he will cancel a $13 billion plan to buy the Marines new armored vehicles from General Dynamics Corp. that can quickly ferry troops from ship to shore while under fire. Other cost-cutting measures are planned as well, including the delay of the Marine version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, according to defense analysts familiar with the plan.

The steps are part of a broader effort by Gates to find some $100 billion in budget fat through 2016 that he can reinvest in programs for the troops and modernizing weapon systems. He hopes to stave off deeper cuts by the White House or Congress. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

Petraeus wife to land post at new consumer bureau
WASHINGTON — In an ongoing push to fill key positions within the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, presidential adviser Elizabeth Warren plans to name Holly Petraeus to head up the agency’s efforts to protect military families from abusive lenders, according to sources familiar with the move.

The appointment of Petraeus — the wife of General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Afghanistan — to lead the bureau’s Office for Service Member Affairs is expected to take place later this week, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because no formal announcement had been made.

Holly Petraeus currently serves as director of BBB Military Line, a program that works alongside the Defense Department to advocate for military families and educate them on consumer issues. — WASHINGTON POST