For President Obama, staff firings come well after political firestorms die down

President Barack Obama doesn't immediately get rid of his aides when they make mistakes. Instead, he waits a few months.

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair became the latest official in the Obama White House to offer his resignation this week, months after his office took heat for intelligence breakdowns that allowed a would-be bomber onto a domestic-bound flight last Christmas Eve.

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White House press secretary Robert Gibbs declined to say when the president began to want Blair to leave, but Gibbs did say Obama has already interviewed several candidates for the job, suggesting Blair's ouster had been in the works.

"The president decided to make a change. I'll let that speak for itself," Gibbs said.

In January, Obama called the security breakdown "unacceptable," and while administration officials at the time did not rule out firings, the White House indicated that the president had confidence in his Blair, as well as CIA Director Leon Panetta and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Blair's departure comes days after the Senate Intelligence Committee publicly released a report
that strongly criticized American intelligence agencies on the Christmas Day bombing.

Blair joins former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and former White House counsel Greg Craig as high-profile aides who unceremoniously left the White House in the calm following their equally high-profile lapses.

Rogers was roundly criticized after the first Obama State Dinner when two gatecrashers were able to gain access to the White House and mingle with the president, Vice President Joe Biden and senior aides.

But despite calls for her dismissal in the immediate wake of the late-November 2009 security breach, Rogers held on until late February before offering Obama her resignation.

In the case of Greg Craig, the man tasked with fulfilling Obama's as-of-yet-unmet goal of closing the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the departure came largely before the storm.

Craig left in November 2009, two months before the administration's deadline to close the facility, but at a time when it became clear Craig would not be able to carry out Obama's pledge to close the military prison within a year of the president's inauguration.

Others in the Obama White House have not had the good fortune of leaving with the appearance of their departure being on their own terms.

Obama's "green jobs" czar Van Jones was pushed out soon after it came to light that he had signed a petition questioning whether there was government involvement in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

And Louis Caldera, the director of the White House office of military affairs, survived just one month last year after he greenlit an ill-advised photo-op that terrified New Yorkers still skittish from the 2001 attacks.

Calder resigned in May 2009.

Obama has strongly defended some of his Cabinet secretaries when they have come under fire, including Napolitano and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University and an expert on the presidency, said Obama has shown that he is willing to give failed subordinates a "decent interval" of cool-off time before they are shown the door.

"It's part of the exit protocol in Washington, at least with this administration," Baker said. "People don't usually walk out with the door slamming behind them."

While Obama has taken a "humane" approach to dismissing underlings, new disasters and events show the president's generosity "has yet to really be tested."

With oil continuing to spill into the Gulf of Mexico to the tune of thousands of barrels a day and Americans' anger matching that output, Baker said he expects "some heads will roll" after the focus is removed from the disaster.

"I think there's going to be a big shift at the [Minerals Management Service], but they're not terribly visible people," Baker said.

For the most part, Baker thinks Obama's willingness to wait on firings is an effort to halt the process stories that follow high-profile departures.

"I think it's part of the 'no-drama Obama' model that they follow," Baker said.