As the White House gears up for the midterm elections, talk is turning to which key players may look to depart after Nov. 2. One of the earliest to exit could be the National Security Adviser, Jim Jones. Obama's pick of a retired Marine general with Republican ties for the job was hailed as a shrewd choice. But from the start, Jones has been an awkward fit laconic in style and less close to the President personally than some more junior aides. With much of the sleeves-rolled coordinating work handled by his deputy, Tom Donilon, Jones has become a kind of foreign policy adviser and emissary for the President, making frequent trips abroad to consult with allies.
Who might succeed Jones? Donilon would be a natural choice, though his background is as much in politics as foreign policy. Hillary Clinton's State Department deputy, James Steinberg, was an original candidate for the job and already served as National Security Council deputy under Bill Clinton. Recently, another candidate has surfaced: General James Cartwright, the well-regarded vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who, like Jones, is also a Marine. (Known to friends as "Hoss," Cartwright has reportedly impressed Obama in face-to-face meetings.)
A Jones departure might be just part of a shake-up for Obama's national-security team this fall. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has made no secret of his longing to leave Washington and has already accepted at least one Obama entreaty to stick around. A Gates exit would raise even more interesting casting questions including the real possibility that Obama might have a splashy replacement in mind: Hillary Clinton.