Obama loses the man McChrystal called a clown

President Barack Obama performed one more awkward hello-goodbye ritual at the White House last night when he confirmed that General James Jones, who had been his National Security Advisor since the start of his tenure, was clearing his desk.

It comes a week after Mr Obama lost Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and gives new momentum to an exodus of aides that, while not unusual half-way through a president's term, is coinciding with a perilous time, three weeks from the mid-term congressional elections. Others who have left include the budget director, Peter Orszag, and the chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisors, Christina Romber.

Mr Obama said he was "extraordinarily thankful" that Gen Jones, after being his top policy adviser during his campaign to be president, decided to take the White House post. "The American people owe Jim an unbelievable debt of gratitude," he said.

The President, who called him a "steady voice", said that the general had always made clear he would serve in Washington for a two-year period only. Yet some had painted him as a weak Security Advisor. And Obama's War, the latest book by the investigative journalist Bob Woodward, included passages that were not kind either to Gen Jones or to his deputy, Tom Donilon, who now replaces him as chief foreign policy adviser to the President.

In Woodward's book Gen Jones is cited complaining about Mr Emanuel and other members of Mr Obama's inner circle, calling them the "water bugs", the "politburo" and the "Mafia". He allegedly threatened to walk out once when he felt he wasn't getting proper access to the Oval Office.

Although the reviews of Mr Donilon are usually flattering – he is known for his ability to cast foreign policy decisions in a political light and to mediate between arguing parties – there is a moment in Woodward's book where Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, suggests Mr Donilon would be a "disaster" as National Security Advisor. Yesterday, he was obliged to eat his words.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed working with General Jones," he said, "and I have had a very productive and very good working relationship with Tom Donilon, contrary to what you may have read. And I look forward to continuing to work with him."

Gen Jones came into the White House as a four-star Marine General with a stellar military record that included stints as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and Commander of the US European Command. His contacts with foreign leaders and military chiefs helped seal important foreign policy goals, including calming relations with Russia and a new arms treaty.

But he failed to persuade members of Congress to speed up the closure of Guantanamo Bay and apparently lost the respect of General David McChrystal, who was alleged in a Rolling Stone interview (which cost him his job) to have called Gen Jones "a clown".

Challenges facing Mr Donilon in the coming weeks include another review of policy in Afghanistan, which is unlikely to be positive. It was largely descriptions of in-fighting and squabbling at the time of the last review, a year ago, that fed the pages of Woodward's book.

The Obama musical chairs are not over yet. Larry Summers, his top economic advisor, will return to Harvard at the end of the year. David Axelrod is expected to leave early next year to work on Mr Obama's re-election campaign, and Robert Gibbs, the press spokesman, could soon be moving to a different job inside the White House.

The Successor: Tom Donilon

The Bob Woodward book may have helped push General Jones through the exits but apparently Tom Donilon has come to no harm despite a passage which has Robert Gates, the US Secretary of Defense, speculating that he would be a "disaster" if he ever became national security advisor.

Donilon now has to work with Mr Gates as well as with the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Plus he has to negotiate all the other personnel moves going on inside the White House. His reputation is as a problem-solver and patient mediator.

And while Donilon kept a low profile as deputy advisor, he has plenty of experience – he served in the Carter administration and under Bill Clinton was chief of staff to secretary of state Warren Christopher. His biggest strength, supporters say, is his ability to counsel the President on the connections between foreign policy and politics. He helped push him towards the troop withdrawals in Iraq.

His appointment will surprise no one (save perhaps Mr Gates). Half of those who have served as deputy since the days of JFK, including Brent Scowcroft, Robert McFarlane and Colin Powell, have ended up as national security advisor.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform