Noam Scheiber responds to a bunch of critiques of his article on the Obama wonks. It seems to me that the strongest part of the response is the one that dealt with me. "After all, didn't Bill [Clinton] employ a lot of academic economists" just like Obama does now?:
Yes, there's no question he did, and that they were influential. But the composition of your inner circle matters quite a bit, more so than who's generally in your administration or in the next circle out. Clinton did hire people like Joe Stiglitz and Larry Summers. But there was never really a first-rate academic economist in his White House inner sanctum. The Clinton insiders most concerned with the nuts and bolts of economic policy were Robert Rubin, Gene Sperling, and Bruce Reed--all very smart, capable men, but none a trained economist.
This seems like an accurate enough characterization of the situation. In a boring sort of way, I think only time will tell the actual significance of this stuff. There's nothing better to do during campaign season than try one's best to figure out how people will govern based on the available information, but the reality is that there's a lot of intrinsic uncertainty in these things. Campaign promises and pre-assembled packages of advisors are probably the best guide to what future policymaking will look like, but it's a pretty imperfect guide.