Obama dealt new setback as top security adviser resigns
The exodus of senior aides from the White House continued yesterday as General James Jones, Barack Obama's head of national security, resigned.
His departure, which comes a week after Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff, resigned, removes one of the few senior officials not belonging to the US president's coterie of long-time advisers.
Brought in originally for his vast experience and independent voice, it had been clear for some time that the former Nato supreme commander had failed to gel with the president's inner circle. General Jones is being replaced by one of those close aides, his former deputy Thomas Donilon.
Announcing the change, Mr Obama paid tribute to General Jones's "long service to the nation", but did little more than praise him as a "steady voice in the situation room" as national security adviser.
He described Mr Donilon as a "probing intellect".
Mr Donilon, a veteran of six Democratic presidential campaigns and a former senior State Department official, is steeped in the workings of government and was an adviser to Mr Obama's presidential campaign.
His detractors regard him as too political for a job where the main tasks are assessing and balancing information from different departments and enforcing the president's policy.
According to a new book by Bob Woodward, Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, remarked that Mr Donilon would be a "disaster" if ever promoted because he did not appreciate or understand the armed forces sufficiently.
Mr Gates said on Friday that he had "a very good working relationship with Mr Donilon". He was among those aides who urged Mr Obama to resist the request by military leaders for a large US troop increase during policy deliberations last year. Vice-President Joe Biden, who argued loudest against escalating reinforcements, is a friend.
With Mr Gates likely to resign some time in 2011, and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, also expected to retire next year, the departure of General Jones paves the way for a policy shift towards an accelerated US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The four-star general's announcement came just a week after Mr Emanuel left to run for mayor of Chicago. He was replaced by Pete Rouse, the first man Mr Obama employed when he started as a senator.
Over the course of the summer three senior economic advisers left or announced their resignation. A number of political aides are expected to leave after the November 2 midterm elections, when the Democrats are likely to suffer heavy losses.
General Jones (66) attracted some mockery from younger staff in the White House for sometimes leaving the office at 7pm while others burned the midnight oil. Mr Donilon is known as one of the hardest workers in the West Wing.
Although General Jones had the president's respect he never developed the type of trust and close relationship with the Oval Office that has marked his most lauded predecessors. (© Daily Telegraph, London)