The Corner

Most Partisan White House Counsel Ever?

The current White House power shuffle that has led to the departures of Greg Craig, Anita Dunn, and Cassandra Butts has also brought in Bob Bauer as White House Counsel. Bauer is actually married to Dunn, who was the apparent author of the failed strategy to marginalize Fox News. Obama’s willingness to grant an interview to FNC’s Major Garrett on the heels of Dunn’s departure appears to be an attempt to lay blame for the Fox freeze out on the departing Dunn. 

I fear that the president may come to regret the selection of Bauer, who has the most partisan profile of any previous occupant of the position of White House Counsel. He is the first White House Counsel to hit the trifecta of having been General Counsel to the Democratic National Committee and “counsel for many years to the Democratic Senatorial and Congressional Campaign Committees,” as Bauer’s profile at Perkins Coie helpfully tells us. I have spoken to a number of former members of the White House Counsel’s office, from multiple administrations, who agree with this assessment. One former colleague noted that it is important for the president to have a White House Counsel unlinked to the party apparatus. This is because the political parties, by their nature, want to get away with as much as they can, and the president needs someone who is willing to say no to the party’s endless requests to use — and misuse — the office of the president and the president himself. Someone like Bauer, whose job at the various party committees has been to push the limits of the law on behalf of the Democratic party, runs the very real risk of becoming more of a partisan enabler than an honest broker.

Tevi Troy is a presidential historian and former White House aide. His latest book is Fight House: Rivalries in the White House from Truman to Trump.