When Greg Craig vacates his post at the end of the 2009, Robert Bauer, longtime Democratic legal counsel and Obama personal attorney, will become White House counsel.
Craig departs after a controversial tenure at the White House. He was a key figure behind Obama's decision to sign the executive order to close the prison at Guantanamo within one year, a January 22, 2010 deadline that will remain unmet. The president drew criticism on this issue from both the Left and the Right – both for wavering on the modalities of closing the camp and for being weak on terror, respectively. Craig also pushed hard to release Bush-era Department of Justice memos that attempted to legally justify torturous interrogation techniques and then lobbied for the release of Gitmo detainee photographs. Obama opted against this.
As a foreign policy advisor to Obama's campaign who hoped for a prime foreign policy post in the administration, Craig implicated himself in policy creation more than his predecessors. For this, he drew him criticism within the administration.
Bob Bauer, a partner at Perkins Cole, has advised the Democratic Party and key campaigns for a number of years. His expertise centers on the intricacies of domestic election law, particularly campaign finance reform, which he has often criticized.
Although the question remains as to how an election law expert will handle the myriad international questions that his job will demand, the appointment could signify that Obama is not looking to add yet another ambitious foreign policy heavyweight to his team. Instead, the choice of Bauer may shift the focus of White House counsel back to other key tasks of the job – among which are managing presidential pardons, overseeing judicial and executive appointments, and legal issues arising from presidential decisions.