White House: Midterm staff changes ‘routine’

It is “customary” for members of the administration to depart following the midterm elections, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday.

The spokesman’s comments came in response to questions about whether President Obama will look to shake up his team after the November elections.

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Earnest said he didn’t know of “anybody planning to leave,” but his answer suggested the White House is anticipating changes as routine.

“It is customary after midterm elections for members of an administration to pursue other opportunities,” he said.

White House and administration shake-ups after a midterm election are regular practice in Washington. Earnest said that’s “probably been true since George Washington’s second midterm election that some members of his staff left.”

On Wednesday, journalist David Ignatius wrote in The Washington Post that Obama was eying changes to his top staff. The longtime Washington reporter floated the president's national security team and chief of staff as areas where the president might look to make a change. 

The speculation comes as the president is facing new questions about his leadership style, thanks to a new book from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. The longtime Obama aide suggested Obama was to willing to walk away when facing challenges to his agenda and agued Obama damaged American credibility by not following through on his pledge to attack Syria if it used chemical weapons.

Asked if Panetta's criticisms had led the White House to reflect on the president's leadership style, Earnest argued Obama approached challenges with candor.

“I talk about how frequently the strategy that this administration puts in place is evaluated and constantly revisited for effectiveness and for success, and that where changes are necessary, the president and his team have not hesitated to do them,” Earnest said.

The White House spokesman pointed to Wednesday's announcement of additional Ebola screenings of passengers traveling from West Africa as evidence that the administration adapted its security strategies on the fly.

“I think what you see is a president that has a leadership style that is candid and direct and committed to protecting the core national security interests of the United States of America,” Earnest said.