Obama Gets High Marks From Clinton Administration Veterans

Why the new president cruises where Bill Clinton stumbled.

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Veterans of President Bill Clinton's administration say there are several reasons why Barack Obama has gotten off to a better start than their former boss.

First, Obama is more disciplined and efficient in making decisions and delegating responsibility than Clinton was back in 1993, when the last Democratic presidency got started, making for a smoother operation at the White House.

Second, the Clinton veterans, some of whom are currently working for Obama, say senior people in the administration coordinate constantly with each other, which sometimes didn't happen under Clinton.

Third, Clinton aides would frequently get into arguments about the timing of policy initiatives. "Today, we don't fight about sequencing" because Obama wants to do so many things at once, says a former Clinton aide who is now on Obama's team.

Another big difference is that the Obama team is more experienced in Washington and more mature than Clinton's team was, Clinton veterans say.

Many White House insiders add that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a former Clinton adviser and an ex-congressman from Chicago, is a big reason for the improvement. "Having Rahm there makes a huge difference," says a former top Clinton aide. "He has very good relations with Congress. He knows how to navigate Capitol Hill." By contrast, Clinton and his first chief of staff, Mack McLarty, had to learn that for themselves.

Finally, Clintonites concede that the challenges are tougher today. "Clinton didn't get handed a basket full of crises as Obama has," according to another former Clinton adviser.