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.

Arts and Entertainment
TV Review: Sabotage, a meltdown and, of course, plenty of sauce
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100'Geography can be tough'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Louis van Gaal looks dejected after Manchester United's 4-0 defeat by MK Dons on Tuesday night
sport
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
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
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - Lewes / Brighton

£45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

PE Graduate?

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Are you a PE graduate looking for a ...

Primary Teacher

£90 - £135 per day + travel expenses: Randstad Education Newcastle: Key Stage ...

Humanities Teacher

£100 - £150 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Permanent Teacher of Humaniti...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?