The Corner

White House

The Man in Charge at the White House

Republicans have taken to referring to White House chief of staff Ron Klain as “the prime minister.” A New York Times profile suggests, with winks and nods, that Klain is the man actually in charge of the administration headed by a famously befuddled near-octogenarian. “He’s kind of the guy behind the curtain,” says Republican senator John Thune. If Biden’s mind has a tendency to wander, Klain is the man who steers him back in the direction Klain wants him to go:

White House officials who have seen their dynamic say Mr. Klain is expert at keeping discussions with Mr. Biden focused on specific actions, which is not always easy, given the president’s habit of verbal meanderings.

A typical exchange, White House officials say, is for Mr. Klain to suggest something along the lines of, “Sir, we’re recommending that you make these three calls” — unless Mr. Biden pre-empts him by declaring his own intent to make the same calls.

Klain certainly appears to be far more focused on business than President Let’s Call a Lid.

He presides over a series of morning meetings with top White House aides — one with the president’s senior advisers, another with the extended senior staff. He sends emails in bursts, with numbered bullet points and capitalization for emphasis. (Colleagues describe his email voice as “emphatic.”) He tries to be in the Oval Office at 9:30 a.m. or so, when the president receives his intelligence briefings.


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