Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton may have been the leaders of the free world and leaders of the Democratic Party, but both administrations would have floundered without the efforts of the less prominent, but no less powerful political adviser, John Podesta. Serving in both administrations, no other non-officeholder has influenced his party in the modern era as much as this Democratic "go-to guy."
As Bill Clinton's chief of staff, he managed a White House rocked by revelations of the president's sexual misconduct and implemented a strategy to achieve an acquittal of charges in the Senate. When Clinton went to North Korea to free two Americans, Podesta was sent along to keep everything on track.
Upon leaving the White House, Podesta founded the Center for American Progress, which promotes progressive values. Soliciting wealthy donors like George Soros, Herb and Marion Sandler, Peter Lewis, and Steve Bing, Podesta turned himself and the Center into liberal powerhouses.
“[Podesta] believes in and uses power in a way that many Democrats are too pusillanimous to do,” said Paul Begala, a former Clinton White House aide. “He’s not afraid to use power, and ruthlessly if necessary... He’s the real thing.”
In 2014, Podesta was brought into an Obama White House that was struggling to set and accomplish an agenda. He arrived with a strategy he outlined in a 2010 report about how a president could use his executive authority more aggressively without waiting for Congress. He took on select projects, such as new regulations on power plants, data privacy, and the negotiation of a carbon reduction agreement with China.Now he has left the White House, presumably to build a Hillary Clinton presidency. It will fall to him, as the obvious chairman of the anticipated campaign, to impose order on the chaotic Clinton network.
For Mrs. Clinton to be successful, her campaign will need to avoid the internal issues that doomed her bid against Obama in the 2008 primary cycle. There can be no more Democratic infighting this time around.
Clinton's husband, famous for being undisciplined and inappropriately gregarious, will need to be reined in. The campaign will need to bridge the inevitable divide between Obama and Mrs. Clinton that accompanies a candidate trying to distinguish herself from a sitting president with a low approval rating, and manage relations between Obama's focus on his legacy and Clinton's focus on the 2016 election.
And if there is anyone capable of handling all of this, it is John Podesta.