President Barack Obama on 10th December named John Podesta as counselor to the president. Podesta has reportedly agreed to help the President in his time of troubles for a year. The White House announced that Podesta would advise the President on a range of issues, but specifically mentioned climate and energy.
Podesta was a co-chair of the Obama-Biden transition team in 2009 and has been an unofficial but highly influential outside adviser to the Obama Administration for the past five years. In 2003, he founded and became president of the Center for American Progress, the leftist think tank and advocacy organization that provided much of the ammunition to oppose the policies of the George W. Bush Administration. CAP continues as a major influence on the Democratic Party in Congress and on the Obama Administration. This fall Podesta announced that he was founding the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, which will promote share-the-wealth and other class warfare policies.
Podesta served as deputy White House chief of staff and then chief of staff from 1998 to 2001 in the Clinton Administration. Before joining the Clinton White House, Podesta was one of then-Senator Tom Daschle’s closest advisers and served in several high level committee and leadership staff positions in the Senate. Podesta is from Chicago. Although I don’t know whether Podesta has ever been active in Chicago politics, he knows how politics is played in Chicago. He is extremely able, politically shrewd, and tough.
Podesta is especially interested in global warming, energy, federal lands, and environmental issues in general. CAP’s web site, Think Progress, has a separate page called Climate Progress, which posts Joe Romm’s rants. When the energy issue was cutting against President Obama early in the 2012 election, Podesta wrote a memo which laid out what needed to be done to win the energy issue for Obama and the Democrats. The Obama campaign followed most of Podesta’s advice and did turn public opinion in favor of Obama on energy policies.
Podesta has criticized the Obama Administration on several occasions for focusing too much on legislation and not using executive authority to make policy to the full extent possible. Those of us who have watched the Obama EPA stretch its regulatory authority far beyond that of any previous administration might be surprised by this criticism. But the fact is that abusing authority tends to grow and become habit forming.
The White House announced that Podesta will not be involved in the decision on permitting the Keystone XL Pipeline. As one of the leading opponents of the pipeline, he will not need to be involved. Everyone in the Administration, including President Obama, already knows that he has worked closely with billionaire Tom Steyer to kill the pipeline. The real question is how much further Podesta will urge the President to go in implementing energy-rationing policies that will widen the wealth gap between rich and poor.