Meet the Media's Favorite Departing White House Aide
Twentysomething Eric Lesser can't stay out of the news
Six youngish White House aides will leave the Obama administration for Harvard Law School this fall, where they'll grace Cambridge with "a rare skill set" and "a golden Rolodex," Politico's Amie Parnes reports. They join two more Obama alums there as five others pursue other graduate degrees. The aides say it's better to leave the White House now rather than next year, in the heat of President Obama's reelection campaign. But one wonders how one of these rosy-cheeked staffers, Eric Lesser, will manage up there in Massachusetts, so far from the national press, which clearly loves him.
That there's a revolving door between Harvard and the White House is not surprising, nor insidious, no matter what Mike Huckabee might say. But it's true that reading about these kids can be a bit unsettling, not least because we feel like we're reading about them a lot.
Lesser, now an aide to Council of Economic Advisers head Austan Goolsbee, is better known as former Obama adviser David Axelrod's fastidious bag boy during the 2008 campaign. In April 2009, his efforts at organizing a White House seder were noted in The New York Times. Then in June, Lesser and his old boss's Felix-and-Oscar relationship was profiled in The Times under the flattering headline
And Now, Starring in the West Wing: Ax & Lesser
Mr. Lesser--a Longmeadow, Mass., native; four-time high school class president (campaign slogan: “The Lesser of Two Evils”), and 2007 Harvard graduate--started with the campaign in June 2007 as baggage boy. He took on the task with characteristic zeal, devising a system of color-coded luggage tags. “At the end of the day, I never lost a bag,” he said proudly.
He also earned Mr. Axelrod’s trust on the campaign trail, through long conversations and the uncanny ability to help Mr. Axelrod reunite with whichever piece of luggage he had lost along the way.
“I figured if he could get the bags on time, he could get me to meetings on time,” Mr. Axelrod said.
In March of 2010, the Times again detailed Lesser's work organizing the White House seder, which marked "the first time in history that gefilte fish had been placed on White House dishware," Lesser said. A month later, he--and that clever high school campaign slogan--was featured in the New York Times Magazine.
Axelrod is Obama’s senior adviser and alter-ego, and Lesser is usually running his life, deciding how much brown sugar he can have in his oatmeal to keep his waistline in check or making sure he is on time for meetings with the president. He plays Felix to Axelrod’s messy, disorganized Oscar and is something of a sprightly West Wing mascot: neurotic and prepared but earnest and funny in a kid-brother way. In a muggy room to the right of the front door, Lesser danced to the Jay-Z remix of “Beware of the Boys,” by Panjabi MC, bounding up and down as a circle formed around him. Sweaty and beaming, he bounced with the energy that comes from being still fresh from college — not too many years after he was elected high-school class president with a “Lesser of Two Evils” campaign slogan.
In January of this year, Maureen Dowd told, for the third time in her newspaper, of Lesser's efforts at getting Axelrod to eat less brown sugar on his oatmeal. Explaining the significance of Axelrod's departure from the White House to work on the reelection campaign, Dowd wrote:
"The White House is like fantasy camp for him," said his charming assistant, Eric Lesser. "He could go to an Afghan war council in the Situation Room, meet Sandy Koufax and have a baseball signed, and have lunch with Caroline Kennedy."
So what will Lesser do way up north? He'll just have to make do, like he did as an undergrad at Harvard. Way back in 2006, the Associated Press quoted Lesser at a protest against former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. As he heads to law school, we're confident Lesser will find himself a place in the news, even if he's far from the campaign trail.