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Chafee's Rahm

Richard A. Licht is not as colorful and profane as Rahm Emanuel. But Lincoln Chafee's choice for top aide bears some resemblance to President Obama's choice, just after taking office, of Emanuel as chief of staff.

Like Obama, who had spent just four years on Capitol Hill when he ran for president, Chafee - whatever his experience in politics - is not a seasoned operator in his new sphere. And like Obama, he has chosen a right-hand man who knows the culture, knows the game.

Both men took some heat for their decision, because both ran as outsiders - as change agents. And naming an insider to such a prominent role creates an optics problem.

But both could argue that having an insider aboard is key to a successful administration. And Chafee's argument may be even stronger than Obama's on this front. The reason: the presidency is a strong office, while the Rhode Island governor is relatively weak vis-a-vis the General Assembly. That, arguably, makes the choice of someone who knows his way around the legislature even more important.

One long-time observer says Licht's focus and smarts will give the administration a strong hand in negotiations with the General Assembly leadership. Chafee, coming into a constitutionally weak office with just 36 percent of the vote, needs as much strength as he can get.

 

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