It says here that Denis McDonough is asking top White House aides whether they plan to serve out the remainder of President Obama's term. They should all say "no."
The president's approval ratings are underwater, his credibility is shot, he's politically toxic to Democratic candidates, his leadership is a bipartisan source of scorn, and a vast majority of Americans think the country is careening down the wrong track. If Obama has any hope of rebuilding his legacy, he needs to dismantle his staff. "Thank you for your service, everybody, now go."
He can't just tinker, which is what McDonough seems to have in mind. "The process, which began in recent weeks, is focused on keeping people at the White House," Politico reported, "with the expectation among senior administration officials that whoever's in place next summer would remain through the end of the presidency."
History also suggests that there are two types of White House shake-ups. The first is mostly cosmetic and is aimed at sending a signal that the president is serious. He fires somebody, anybody, as a sacrificial lamb. The second is deep cleansing—that rare occasion when a president rebuilds his team to change himself.
The latter is what Obama must do.
Bill Clinton effectively fired himself after voters repudiated his presidency in the 1994 midterm elections, giving Republicans control of Congress for the first time in decades. He asked his budget director, Leon Panetta, what went wrong. You and your White House lack discipline, Panetta replied.
For his sake and ours, Obama must fire himself. He needs to recognize that, for all of his strengths as a person and a politician, he's shown an astonishing lack of growth on the job. Obama won't evolve unless he replaces enablers with truth-tellers—advisers unafraid of telling the president he's wrong.