Bruce Reed: Another Clinton centrist joins Obama White House

Bruce Reed will be Vice President Biden's new chief of staff. He was a senior aide to President Clinton and a leader in centrist Democratic policy circles. Does this bode ill for liberals' agenda?

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Former President Bill Clinton (l.) and Bruce Reed appear at Barnes and Noble to promote 'The plan-big ideas for America,' co-authored by Reed and Rahm Emanuel (not pictured), in this 2006 file photo. Reed will be Vice President Joe Biden's new chief of staff.

The Obama White House is beginning to look like a reunion of the Clinton administration. On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden announced that Bruce Reed will be his new chief of staff.

Though not a household name, Mr. Reed is well known in Washington for his role as a senior aide to President Bill Clinton and for his continued leadership in centrist policy circles. He recently served as executive director of President Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission, and since 2001 has been chief executive officer of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.

“I’ve known and admired Bruce for over 20 years,” said Mr. Biden in a statement. “We worked closely together to pass the crime bill in the 1990s, and I’ve frequently sought his advice and counsel in the years since.”

Other centrist Clinton alums just appointed to prominent Obama administration positions include the new chief of staff, William Daley, and the new director of the National Economic Council, Gene Sperling. The outgoing chief of staff, Ron Klain, had also served in the Clinton White House, as Vice President Al Gore’s chief of staff.

Bringing back old hands from a previous administration of the same party is a time-honored Washington tradition. Some liberals are worried that naming centrists to such important posts bodes ill for their agenda. But at least one high-profile progressive, former Democratic chairman Howard Dean, suggested at a recent Monitor breakfast that temperament can trump politics. He said that bringing in Mr. Daley as chief of staff is a “huge plus” despite their policy differences, calling him “an adult” who shows respect to different points of view.

In the end, it’s the president who sets policy goals, not his staff.

Reed served Mr. Clinton for all eight years of his presidency – four years as chief domestic policy adviser, and before that two years as deputy domestic policy adviser and two years as assistant to the president for domestic policy planning. In addition to Reed’s work on crime legislation, Biden also notes that Reed helped win passage of welfare reform and with Clinton’s education agenda. Reed had worked on the Clinton-Gore campaign and, before that, worked on the staff of then-Senator Gore.

A native of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Reed is a graduate of Princeton University and was a Rhodes scholar. In addition to vice-presidential chief of staff, he will hold the title assistant to the president.

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