For His Campaign, Obama Has Assembled an Eclectic Brain Trust

The Democratic nominee tries to foster a lively debate between his advisers over policies and strategy.

Obama relies on Austan Goolsbee as one of his top economic advisers.

Obama relies on Austan Goolsbee as one of his top economic advisers.


Rice grew up in the nation's capital, the daughter of an elite black family—her father was once a governor of the Federal Reserve and her mother was an education scholar. A Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, she worked on foreign policy as an aide to Michael Dukakis and adviser to John Kerry during their failed presidential bids. She now counts former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as a close friend and mentor.

Rice, 43, is first and foremost a policy adviser, but she also has become an effective public advocate of Obama's positions in the media. She could be appointed White House national security adviser.

Austan Goolsbee. University of Chicago professor Austan Goolsbee considers himself mostly a problem solver rather than an ideologue. But he has shown no reluctance to display his tough, combative side in the current campaign, emerging as one of Obama's senior economic advisers.

"This is going to be a fight over who is going to be best for the average American and who will get the economy growing again in a way that benefits everyone, and not just a wealthy, well-connected few," Goolsbee recently told the Financial Times.

Goolsbee, who, with Freakonomics author Steven Levitt, ushered in a new era of what might be called "popular economics" at the conservative University of Chicago, wrote a series of columns dealing with subjects from iPods to paperless tax returns for the New York Times and He has also penned numerous academic journal articles, often focusing on technology or the tax code.

The economist did get into hot water earlier in the campaign when he apparently told Canadian officials that Obama's criticisms of the North American Free Trade Agreement were being exaggerated and Obama would be more moderate on NAFTA if he became president. Goolsbee said he was misinterpreted, and he remains in Obama's good graces.

An avid snowboarder and father of three, Goolsbee, 39, is expected to be named chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers in an Obama administration.

Valerie Jarrett. Chicago businesswoman Valerie Jarrett is one of Obama's closest confidants across the spectrum of policy and politics. She is a former senior adviser to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and was finance chairwoman of Obama's 2004 campaign for the Senate, serving as a bridge between the private sector and Obama's political organization. She now runs the Habitat Co., a real estate development and management firm, and is the former chairwoman of the Chicago Transit Authority Board and the Chicago Stock Exchange.

Jarrett, 51, got started in politics and government when she worked for Harold Washington, Chicago's first black mayor. Later, in the 1990s, as an aide to Mayor Daley, she hired a young Michelle Obama to work for the city. She remains a close friend of both Michelle and Barack, and is proud of her role as someone who will give them both her unvarnished views.

In a recent interview with National Public Radio, Jarrett said, "Friends are there to tell you something that's not very popular. And I think, you know, as we see often in life, as people reach higher and higher planes, oftentimes people are a little, you know, shy." She added, "So to have a friend who can say to you, you know, quite candidly what he or she thinks is probably a good thing."

Jarrett could end up as a White House counselor or as chief of staff.

With Alex Kingsbury