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A new Barack Obama aide draws fire from labor, liberals

June 10, 2008 |  7:54 pm

Having Hillary Clinton get behind his presidential candidacy may have been the easy part for Barack Obama, as he now moves to both buttress his campaign's brainpower and unite the notoriously fractious Democratic Party.

The two tasks aren't necessarily complementary, as Obama discovered Tuesday when labor leaders and others expressed surprise and chagrin over his choice of Jason Furman as his chief economic advisor.

For the presumptive presidential nominee, Furman's selection is part of a process of tapping into heavyweights who weren't part of his initial band of loyalists but whose talents he can now call upon. Furman, 37, served a similar advisory role for the party's 2004 White House nominee, Sen. John Kerry, and has worked closely in recent years with Robert Rubin, the guiding force behind President Bill Clinton's economic agenda.

There's the rub, for the union officials and some liberal activists.

As The Times' Tom Hamburger reports, criticism of Furman includes the charge that, as a promoter of the benefits of economic globization, he overlooks the trend's negative effects.

Marco Trbovich, a top aide to the head of the Steelworkers Union, told Hamburger: "We are very much taken aback that Furman has been put at the head of this team. ... He is a very bright fellow but he is an unalloyed cheerleader for the trade policies that have been very destructive to manufacturing jobs in this country."

That's not exactly ...

... the type of reaction that is going to help Obama improve his standing with the large pockets of working-class white voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio and elsewhere that he needs to win over.

A spokesman for Obama, Hari Sevugan, stressed that it will be the candidate, not the advisor, calling the shots.

"Staff who work for Sen. Obama implement his ideas and his vision, regardless of their own," Sevugan said.

Hamburger's story on the dispute can be read here.

-- Don Frederick

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