WASHINGTON (CAP) - Less than a week after Barack Obama's presidential election win, his group of close to 50 economic advisors - dubbed by Beltway insiders as his "economy posse" - is already drawing fire from Republicans.
"Everywhere he goes, there they are - It's unnerving," said Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who added he had to wait eight whole minutes to get out of his office as they passed by yesterday, following Obama at close range. "They're like that damn Verizon Wireless Network or something."
The group made its debut last week at President-elect Obama's first press conference, flanking him silently as he addressed the press. Since then the advisors have accompanied him to a Washington radio station, where he recorded the Democratic Party's weekly radio address with them looking on, and to a pet store where Obama's daughters viewed potential White House puppies.
They are also expected to attend his first transition meeting at the White House with President George W. Bush, confirmed Obama's new chief of staff, U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel. "They said they would wait in the hallway during more sensitive portions of the conversation," said Emanuel. "Or maybe in the Lincoln Sitting Room if the hallway's not big enough."
One Republican legislator who declined to be named noted that Obama's entourage seems to grow in number with each subsequent public event. "Not by much - just enough to keep it from being obvious. That's what's so devious about it," he said. "I also think at least some of them are sponging off of him just to pick up women."
Meanwhile, reports have begun to surface about infighting among the advisors. At least one bystander reported seeing some members of the group get into a near altercation while waiting for Obama outside a dressing room at the Nordstrom's in the Pentagon City Mall.
"It was pretty ugly," said Charles Walsh of Reston, Va. "[Former Treasury Secretary] Larry Summers was holding [former Labor Secretary] Robert Reich's head at arm's length while Reich was swinging his little arms trying to reach him." He added that Warren Buffet was laughing his head off during the whole incident.
Also, said one Congressional aide who asked not to be identified, the advisors caused some "hard feelings" when they collectively snubbed Sen. Joe Leiberman as he passed them in the halls of Congress. "I think [Michigan Gov.] Jennifer Grantholm may have even tripped him," said the aide.
Obama was unapologetic about the presence of his coterie of experts. "Look, during the campaign I said that I was going to surround myself with the greatest economic minds this nation has to offer, and I meant that, you know, quite literally," he told reporters as the advisors - now numbering between 58 and 62, according to one estimate - glowered a them icily.
"It's tough sometimes, especially when Michelle, you know, gets a little randy, and I have to say, Please Michelle, not in front of the economic advisors," admitted Obama. "But that's what I meant when I was talking about service and sacrifice.
"Besides, Warren Buffet keeps winking at me, which is, frankly, you know, creepy."
- CAP News Staff