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Anita Dunn Departs, Obama Gets Third Communications Director

5 years ago
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When media consultant Anita Dunn became Barack Obama's second White House communications director in May, she insisted that the job had to be temporary, originally hoping that it would not extend beyond her 12-year-old son's summer vacation.

It is unusual for someone coming in at a senior level in the White House to have this kind of bargaining leverage. But Dunn, a leading figure in the 2008 Obama campaign, was a special case: She had been the president's original choice for the job, and the White House was then dealing with the flameout of communications director Ellen Moran, who had been exiled to the Commerce Department.

Dunn missed her end-of-summer deadline. But the White House will be announcing today that Dunn will be leaving the West Wing at the end of November, although she will continue as an informal adviser. Dunn will be replaced by her deputy, Dan Pfeiffer, who has worked for Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

During Dunn's six-month stint as communications director, Obama's approval dipped towards the 50 percent mark as the unemployment rate crossed the 10 percent threshold. But her White House tenure will be remembered for making explicit what had long been the Obama team's view of Fox News. During an interview with CNN last month, Dunn referred to the conservative cable network as "a wing of the Republican Party." While those incendiary comments set off a firestorm in the blogosphere, the White House had already been semi-boycotting Fox News, pointedly excluding the cable network in September, when Obama appeared on five Sunday morning talk shows to plug his health care plan.
Dunn's departure will once again leave longtime Obama friend Valerie Jarrett as the only woman not named Michelle in the inner circle of the White House. The Obama team has long been concerned about the symbolism of a no-girls-allowed club surrounding the president. But aside from temporarily luring Anita Dunn into the White House, Obama has come no closer to solving this problem than he did during the campaign.

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