WASHINGTON — With his approval ratings flagging and his healthcare law at risk, President Obama is bringing on board the Democratic advisor who helped guide President Clinton through the darkest days of his presidency.
John Podesta, the former White House chief of staff from the Clinton impeachment period, has agreed to join Obama for a year as he tries to right his ship, according to a source familiar with the decision.
The Democratic veteran arrives as the president scrambles to fix the troubled startup of the Affordable Care Act and to recover public support for his most important domestic achievement.
Sources familiar with the decision said White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough asked Podesta to take on the role of guiding the healthcare law’s implementation as well as advising on other big domestic and foreign policy matters.
A Democratic elder with strong credentials in the party’s base, Podesta, 64, is currently chairman of the Center for American Progress and its action fund, which together develop and advocate for progressive policy.
His addition to the staff brings a senior presence to the White House at a time when Obama is anticipating the likely departure of longtime advisor Pete Rouse, formerly the acting chief of staff.
Like the White House elders of Obama’s first term — including message guru David Axelrod and former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel — Podesta is a straight-talking Chicago native with a long political resume that pre-dates the president’s career.
He guided the Clinton White House during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the impeachment process. Before that, Podesta was a member of the Clinton cabinet and worked on the National Security Council.
Liberal allies have been clamoring for dramatic changes to the Obama operation as it struggles to climb out of a healthcare morass that threatens them too. Obama has resisted calls for a staff shakeup, but Podesta is not the only big addition to the White House this week.
Obama also is bringing back Phil Schiliro, the former top legislative aide who helped him pass the Affordable Care Act in the first place. Schiliro, a longtime aide to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) is also joining the White House to help get implementation of the healthcare law on track.