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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower