Fox-bashing Obama aide to step down

posted at 12:55 pm on November 10, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

The woman who became the face of the White House war on Fox News will leave her post at the end of this month.  Anita Dunn, who also got heavily criticized for stating that one of her philosophical touchstones was Chinese communist Mao Zedong, will return to the private sector but remain available to the Obama administration as a consultant:

White House communications director Anita Dunn will step down from her post at the end of the month and Dan Pfeiffer, her deputy, will take over, according to sources familiar with the move.

Dunn, a longtime Democratic media consultant, took over the job on an interim basis earlier this year when Ellen Moran abruptly left the post to take a job at the Commerce Department. Dunn will return to Squier Knapp Dunn, the consulting firm where she is a partner, but will remain as a consultant to the White House on the communications and strategic matters. …

The passing of the baton from Dunn to Pfeiffer had long been expected within White House circles as she had made clear when she took the job that the “interim” in her title was meant to be taken literally.

Unlike when Moran left, the transition should be somewhat seamless as Dunn and Pfeiffer are longtime confidantes — having worked closely in [Tom] Daschle’s political orbit for years.

As Chris Cillizza notes, this does not come as a surprise.  Dunn never intended to stick around long, which is why some assumed the White House tasked her with leading the war of words on Fox News.  The Chairman Mao quote proved embarrassing, especially in that context, but obviously not fatal to her status as a temporary stopgap.  Had it done that much damage, the White House would have looked elsewhere for her replacement rather than appointing her protege.

The change does give the administration an opportunity to withdraw from the Fox War, though, and it has already given hints of reconsidering its widely-panned strategy of marginalizing the network.  For one thing, it has obviously backfired, as Fox’s audience has grown rather than diminished; it outperformed all of the other cable networks combined for Election Night coverage.  David Axelrod made an 11-minute appearance on Fox last week, and the white flag from the White House was not exactly subtle.

Interestingly, Cillizza also hints that Rahm Emanuel wants to “return to elected office in the not-so-distant future.”  He won’t want to go back to the House, and there’s an open Senate seat up for grabs in Illinois — Obama’s old seat, now being occupied temporarily by Roland Burris.  If Emanuel wants to run for that seat, he’ll have to start soon, and no later than the State of the Union address if he wants to keep other prominent Illinois Democrats out of the primary.  Could we be seeing a new chief of staff — and what would that mean for Obama’s proclivity for letting Nancy Pelosi run his legislative agenda?

Update: David Plouffe flogged his book on Fox, not Axelrod. Axelrod appeared for 11 minutes on Fox last week to discuss policy, not a book. My apologies for the error.


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