In mid-October, about three weeks to go before election night, Barack Obama found himself in the classy old Metropolitan Club on 66th Street with a group of his top New York fund-raisers.
He told them there was “extraordinary expertise” in the room. “Who knows?” he said. “There might be some of you who decide that you want to spend a little time in government.”
Perhaps. But there’s something better: The New Yorkers who had the prescience and stamina to support Mr. Obama when Hillary Clinton was the dominant Democrat now carry Barack Platinum Cards; if he wins on Nov. 4, their credit limit will be high. Their advice will be absorbed, their appointments considered, their dreams drafted. And the ones who can see themselves in the cabinet will be taken seriously.
The old F.O.B.’s were Friends of Bill; the new F.O.B.’s are Friendsters of Barack, maybe not that close, but they got in before the going was good. And if there’s one thing we have learned about Team Obama, it’s this: They remember who was there.
Timothy Geithner – Mr. Fed
Since 2003, Timothy Geithner has served as president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. A native New Yorker, the 47-year-old attended Dartmouth College and got his masters at Johns Hopkins University. He speaks some Japanese and Chinese, and has lived in East Africa, India, Thailand, China, and Japan. He can handle a move to D.C., a town he knows well: He worked as under secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs from 1998 to 2001 under Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers and put in some time at Henry Kissinger’s firm before that. His résumé, and his apparent popularity, has made him one of the most buzzed-about candidates for a major government job like Treasury Secretary.
Hillary Clinton – Mistress of the Senate
It’s funny to think of Hillary Clinton as a political beneficiary of an Obama presidency, given the extraordinary efforts she exerted during the primaries to prevent it. But the 60-year-old junior senator from New York may very well be the key, or the roadblock, to a successful Obama administration. Freed from presidential ambitions and their incumbent political calibrations, and aggrandized by a national campaign that fell just short but earned her a national base and near-universal respect, Mrs. Clinton is poised to become a giant in the Senate. If she opposes major components of Mr. Obama’s legislative agenda on big issues like, say health care, the Democratic president is in for a very rocky four years. If she rallies support to push his agenda through, like Ted Kennedy did once upon a time for her husband, it will be as a partner. If she plays her cards right—and she will—she’ll be more powerful than ever.
Orin Kramer – The Super Bundler
It’s not clear whether Orin Kramer would want to serve in an Obama administration, or even what position would be available to him if he did. But what is certain is that Mr. Kramer, a financier at Boston Provident, former aide in Jimmy Carter’s administration and perhaps the most influential bundler in Mr. Obama’s corner, comes out of the election with a lot more influence in New York fund-raising circles than he had going in. His decision to go with the Illinois Senator early on—when the entire New York fund-raising establishment was racing to get a good seat behind Hillary Clinton—conveyed seriousness to the city’s donors. And while the 63-year-old has talked in the past about how the legions of small donors have made him and his ilk political “dinosaurs,” the fact is that his endorsement brought a lot of money and credibility to Mr. Obama. As a result, he has gained the candidate’s ear and the envy of his Clinton-backing friends.
Jeh Johnson – The Paul, Weiss Guy
At 51, Jeh Johnson, a litigation partner at Paul, Weiss in New York, is relatively young to have been a Democratic power player for so many years. President Clinton appointed him as general counsel to the Air Force in 1998, and in 2004 he served as an adviser to the Kerry campaign. In his early career he was a federal prosecutor in Manhattan handling public corruption cases. Johnson was a very early backer of Mr. Obama, whom he met in 2006. As he told The New York Times, Mr. Obama called him in November of that year to say he was thinking of running for president, and asked him to hold off committing to any candidate until he had made up his mind. Mr. Johnson said, “‘Barack, I’m with you.’” As the first black partner at his firm, Johnson can also relate to Mr. Obama’s race-straddling career path. Today, Johnson sits on the campaign’s national finance committee and advises the senator on national security and foreign policy issues.
Caroline Kennedy – The Crucial Boost
Comparisons between Barack Obama and John F. Kennedy had been made before January 27, 2008, but never with quite so much authority. That’s the day that Caroline Kennedy, the former president’s daughter and his last surviving child, published an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times called “A President Like My Father,” in which she wrote, “I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.” If Mr. Obama does get to the White House, he may just bring Ms. Kennedy, 49, with him. A resident of the Upper East Side, she was one of three people who made up the Obama campaign’s vice-presidential search committee, and her name is surfacing in talks among New York’s Democratic insiders for potential jobs in an Obama administration. Her fund-raising and involvement with the New York Department of Education has even led some to mention her as a potential Secretary of Education, though that’s a long shot.
Chris Rock – The New Sinatra
In late September, when Chris Rock made the talk show rounds, it was ostensibly in support of his HBO comedy special, Shoot the Messenger. But in interview after interview, laughs came second; Mr. Rock spent each appearance hammering home one message: Vote for Barack Obama. “I hope Obama wins because the country needs it. The country needs a change,” Mr. Rock told Larry King. And here’s Mr. Rock introducing Senator Obama at a fund-raiser in Harlem a year ago: “It’s nice to see progressive people that are not scared, that want to be on the right side of history,” he said then. “Cuz you’d be real embarrassed if he won and you wasn’t down with it. ‘Ah, man, I can’t call him now. I had that white lady, what was I thinking. What was I thinking?’” High marks, Mr. Rock.
Craig Newmark – The Tech Democrat
Craigslist founder Craig Newmark likes to call himself a “community organizer.” But besides being Craiglist’s official “customer service representative,” the New Jersey-born 55-year-old has taken on another role, as Barack Obama’s “official technology surrogate.” During a meeting at The Observer’s offices recently, Mr. Newmark said that anyone who cares about the Internet knows that Mr. Obama is their candidate. Although the Obama campaign will not comment on who is officially and not officially advising the candidate on tech issues, some of the names include Julius Genachowski, Mr. Obama’s Harvard Law classmate and a former member of Barry Diller’s Office of the Chairman at IAC/InterActiveCorp; Judith Estrin, former chief technology officer of Cisco Systems and current CEO of JLabs LLC; Joe Rospars, who serves as Mr. Obama’s current New Media director and is the founder of an Internet consultancy firm based in Washington, D.C.; and Alec Ross, Mr. Obama’s official science advisor and executive vice president of the nonprofit One Economy Corporation, based in D.C. Former FCC chairmen William Kennard and Reed Hundt are in the mix, too. One thing they all have in common: They all talk about Mr. Obama with Craig Newmark.
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