Bill Burton to leave the White House
February 16th, 2011
03:53 PM ET

Bill Burton to leave the White House

WASHINGTON (CNN) - On the same day that Jay Carney stepped up to the podium for his first official briefing as the successor to Robert Gibbs as White House press secretary, the man who lost out to Carney for the coveted post officially announced he's bolting the administration on Friday.

Bill Burton, who was the principal deputy press secretary to Gibbs, revealed in an e-mail that he is leaving President Obama's staff at the end of the week to start a new political and strategic consulting firm with Sean Sweeney, an ex-adviser to two former White House chiefs of staff, Rahm Emanuel and Pete Rouse.

"I will never forget the hardworking and decent people I worked with here - and I am so thankful for the opportunity to have been a part of it," Burton wrote in the e-mail to colleagues and members of the White House press corps.

Burton, whose wife Laura is expecting the couple's first child this spring, said he had an epiphany this weekend as he prepared their Washington home for the new baby's arrival.

"And while I have felt a real fulfillment in this position - from the walls of this building to the shores of Honolulu - painting the new baby's room this past weekend gave me clarity about a house I might want to spend a little more time in," wrote Burton, who won high marks from colleagues when he filled in for Gibbs at several White House briefings and served as chief spokesman during Obama's past two vacations to Hawaii over the holidays. "So on to the next chapter in my professional career."

Friends of Burton were deeply disappointed that he did not get the President's nod to replace Gibbs after paying his dues and being groomed as the likely successor as press secretary. Burton moved to Chicago during the 2008 campaign and was a critical part of the rapid response team, and worked long hours as Gibbs' top deputy for the past two years without ever slipping up when he filled in as the top spokesman.

But when the White House went through a broader staff shakeup after the "shellacking" of the November election, Burton perhaps became a victim of his baby-faced looks, with senior Democratic officials privately saying that Obama and new Chief of Staff Bill Daley were looking for someone with more of an experienced look at the podium heading into the 2012 re-election battle.

In the end, Obama tapped for the post the slightly older Carney, a former journalist who has more experience in media but far less time in the Obama political orbit. After leaving TIME magazine after the 2008 election, Carney had spent the past two years serving as communications director for Vice President Joe Biden.

Burton has not publicly expressed any bitterness about the process, though he did allude to his long service for Obama in his farewell e-mail, which also included a joking reference to "hangers-on" who signed on much later.

"Four years ago this week, I stood with many of you in Springfield as then-Senator Barack Obama announced an improbable campaign for President on an unbelievably cold day," Burton wrote. "And then I stood with a lot more of you on an unseasonably warm night in Chicago as the next First Family strode onto stage in Grant Park. There was another cold day in Washington - when all the rest of you hangers-on showed up - and that Senator became President. And all those days since, we worked together to make the change he promised a reality in the lives of countless Americans."

It's worth noting that while Carney signed up to the Obama world around the time of the 2009 Inaugural, Burton's new partner Sweeney also joined up at that point as well. Burton and Sweeney worked together at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee when it was run by then Rep. Emanuel, and Sweeney continued to work for Emanuel on Capitol Hill when Burton went to Chicago for the 2008 campaign.

Sweeney also previously worked as a political adviser for the campaigns of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as well as current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she was in the Senate.

"And now we enter into an exciting new phase of our lives," wrote Burton.

Topics: Bill Burton • President Obama • The News • White House

soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Bobby

    If you were not committed 100 percent to the cause you should be in that position to begin with ....

    February 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  2. Bobby

    If you were not committed 100 percent to the cause you should notbe in that position to begin with ....

    February 16, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  3. Chapalody

    My, my, another knight leaving Camelot. Or leaving Rome before Nero Obama burns it down. For those Democrats or the left who doesn't understand this, don't try. It's way over you heads.

    February 16, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • Jim

      The poor dear.....he had to travel with the Royal Family to Hawaii and speak for King Obama from that far away place, while the rest of us shoveled snow. Off with Their Heads.

      February 16, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Jason L

      Funny how our economy is humming a few short months after a near collapse (caused by the GOPs reckless policies). Of course republicans are blinded by other things (see NERO) and not distracted by facts and truth.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:07 am |
      • Frank

        Republican policies? Who's been in charge of Congress since 2006? Or right the twiddle dee and twiddle dumb couple Pelosi and Reid.

        February 18, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • seraphim0

      Does it hurt trying to think of all these witty and baseless things to say all the time? Burn down, eh? Jobless claims down, firms looking to hire, less employment cuts, recovering economy (that was left in shambles for him), ending the combat mission in iraq, etc, etc... yep... the President's been doing a good job of trying to 'burn' things down. Maybe look at things for yourself instead of lockstepping with inflammatory narrative spouted off by people who just want a president to fail.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:40 am |
      • Jay in NC

        Fact check on the Iraq war.

        President Bush ended the Iraq War not Barry. Take a look at the The U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement signed on November 16, 2008. Barry did not become President until January 20th 2009. The agreement called for the withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009 and all U.S. forces will be completely out of Iraq by December 31, 2011. Barry is only following agreements that Bush signed.

        February 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • Brian DC

      I'd leave too if my boss was an incompetant pea brain. A leader Obama is not.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • john

      Actually, jobless claims are back up this week.
      Wouldn't it be nice to have a baseline of how many jobs actually exist in ths country so we can determine how many have been added/lost each week? Heck, our government can't even agree (within 200,000) how many people actually work in the governmnet.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:22 am |
      • Frank

        Yes it would be. With everyone having to have a valid SS number you would think it would be easy? Oh ya, there's that sticky point about a valid SS number.

        February 19, 2011 at 6:13 am |
  4. AMERICA 1st

    Its the writing on the wall, nobama is starting to lose his staff since they all sense their impending job loss in 2012! Sarah for Prez!

    February 17, 2011 at 1:54 am |
  5. blahblah

    Because being politcally left makes you lack knowledge of history?

    February 17, 2011 at 3:22 am |
  6. Grim Reaper

    Rats running from a sinking ship.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:15 am |
  7. Dolce21

    As of late, I have been reading that so many are leaving this administration. I just wonder why the ship jump? Do they know something we dont?

    February 17, 2011 at 7:28 am |
    • Jason L

      this happens routinely. these guys put in unbelievable hours away from their families. Bush went through what – 5 or 6 press secretaries?

      February 17, 2011 at 9:05 am |
      • Jay in NC

        President Bush had 4 press Secretaries. Tony Snow died of cancer.

        2001–2003 Ari Fleischer
        2003–2006 Scott McClellan
        2006–2007 Tony Snow
        2007–2009 Dana Perino

        February 17, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  8. Lisa

    Are they leaving because he is operating as a world leader rather than focusing mainly on the United States, which would be the expectation of the people? His mother was a cultural anthropologist and it seems like he has taken on her job which may not be appropriate for the President of the United States. I can't believe I am saying this because I am a Canadian and prefer the good of all approach, as opposed to the capitalist good of me, me, me but it becomes pretty uncomfortable when the U.S. overly influences cultural and political change in other countries. Reminds me of the fundamentalist Christian right.

    Why are they leaving? It is because the Republicans are so vicious as to create a "this isn't worth it" experience among the democrats who thought they could make a difference (Bill Clinton could have warned them had they asked), or his idealism is, at its' core, dysfunctional and they are seeing it now. And/or, he is becoming the father of other countries and cultures, referring back to this mother's career, and they don't want to be a part of the further downfall of the U.S., started by Bush, financially and operationally, and finallly brought down by Obama, culturally.

    I say all this hestitantly because all of this might be inevitable because of the now global economy. We might look back on history and realize we couldn't stop it – innovation forced those doors open. And, maybe not. I don't think we can fully tell what we are seeing.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:57 am |
  9. Tim

    You nut bags! This happens with every administration! This grass is much greener on the other side and I bet this is way over your head, Chapalody!!!

    February 17, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  10. Jason L

    He looks like Baba-booey, and that is why he was passed over.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  11. Brian DC

    Do you remember when Obama was supposed to have a laser-like focus on jobs? No? Obama is counting on that.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  12. Jay in NC

    June 23, 2007 U.S. Sen. Barry gave an address on government reform in front of supporters at the N.H. Community Technical College in Manchesteron, Mass.

    Barry said:: "When I am president, I will make it absolutely clear that working in an Obama administration is not about serving your former employer, your future employer or your bank account. It's about serving your country and that's what comes first."

    February 17, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      Sorry, Manchester, NH.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  13. Harry Pelosi

    CNN SUX A$$ just like our Kenyan president

    February 18, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  14. john,pa

    Just like the Titanic, the rats are leaving the ship. Rahm Emanuel, Gibbs, Volcker and Burton don’t want to be around now that the Obama administration and the “zars” Obama appointed will get investigated. CNN should start the poll to see who is investigated, prosecuted and put in prison first.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  15. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Is that what you want to call it, MR? If he is, it's all for you poverty-strickened, complainers, and whinners who've blamed him; ONLY him for your failed lifestyle choices! Who else would he 'suck up' to, other than the wealthy/rich? Who else MIGHT have the resources to hire or start businesses that ultimately would need employees? PRESIDENT OBAMA has money! OK? And will still be alright when he leaves! And why? Every other US president kept relations with the wealthy, domestically and internationally!!

    February 18, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  16. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Isn't that what all incoming presidents do or are obliged to do, if at all possible, when they get into office? Try to finish up the missions left by the outgoing one? Had he not followed up on the BUSH WAR CONTRACT, and made sure it was completed as signed, Oh! Then that would have been OBAMAS' fault! He saw to the completion, but BUSH gets the credit! You all started claiming they were OBAMAS' wars, anyway! The drawdown occured under his watch, it's to OBAMAS' credit! You all can't have it both ways!

    February 18, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      President Bush should get some of the credit for ending the Iraq war. He is the one that made the agreement with the Iraq government. Barry also gets credit for stating the process of bringing the guys home. As of now there are still 50,000 troops in Iraq. I hope that they are all out by the end of the year, as promised.

      February 19, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  17. Liz Carter in Georgia

    @john,pa; If BUSH, CHENEY, RUMSFELD, ROVE, RICE and the rest of the greedy gang didn't go to prison, who in the world could possibly be going from the OBAMA administration? BUSH/CHENEY have really set a high 'juris precedent'! If they escaped it, most any defense lawyer could open up that can of worms, use their 'uninvestigated' case of war crimes, as a defense for anybody else! If that ever comes to pass, OBAMA or his people would have had to have done something waaaaaay criminal to end up there, Mr John!

    February 18, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      Please be specific about the 'war crimes' that you claim President Bush committed.

      February 19, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  18. Liz Carter in Georgia

    I, like many other AMERICANS have voiced our disdain over the last administrations' decision to go to IRAQ over and over and over! It was a crime, the fact that they used WMDs as an excuse to go there! 'IRAQ for SALE' and 'THE GREEN ZONE' will explain it all to you. When they so-called found out they were wrong, that there no WMDs, they stayed on in costing us more lives and money to keep it going, while they saved face and got rich off of their contractors they'd set up over there! IRAQI FREEDOM? RIGHT!

    February 20, 2011 at 6:14 am |
    • Frank

      Wow, no WMDs. What do you call 500 metric TONS of yellow cake found in Baghdad and transported to Canada for use in their nuclear reactors? What do you call 550 artillery shells with seran gas? There could never be enough WMDs to satisfy the Hate-Bush crowd. A leader is precisely a guy who doesn't care what his enemies think. Do you think Ike cared that people would criticize his Operation Overlord because 10's of thousands of allies would die? Nope, it was job that had to be done and he did it. But then they were a grown up generation. Unlike our current generation of whiners.

      February 20, 2011 at 7:23 am |
  19. Liz Carter in Georgia

    I think it was a crime that BUSH went ahead, even without the approval of the UNITED NATIONS! We have been known for punishing, cutting off, disenfranchizing other countries for the exact same defiance toward the UN! He stood up there and told us, 'I'm the PRESIDENT of the UNITED STATES; so I'm the DECIDER'! As you have often said CONGRESS went on and authorized the TEXAS COWBOY BUSH & POSSE to saddle on up for IRAQ! They had dogs in the fight and irons in the fire to go take care of! FATTER WALLETS! OIL?!?

    February 20, 2011 at 6:37 am |
    • Frank

      The United States is not answerable to the UN. We are a sovereign state. Similarly each state within the US is not answerable to the federal state. Oh, that was until Woodrow Wilson started us down that statist road the liberals so love.

      February 20, 2011 at 7:25 am |
    • Jay in NC

      President Bush may have been "The Decider" but Barry is "The Complainer".

      February 20, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  20. Liz Carter in Georgia

    I will let you and BUSH have the credit of drawing up the contract with IRAQ, but as far as I'm concerned, it was invalid, illegal, and should have been pulled back; America was dumbfounded under BUSH and his antics and went on and rallied around his decision, because he put his foot down and told us who he was! A thug who didn't care what folk said or how they screamed; he was going in! PRES OBA.MA may need to take a page out of THE GEORGE W BUSH PLAYBOOK on that one! Forget all liars, whinners, and fools!

    February 20, 2011 at 6:55 am |
    • Jay in NC

      It comes down to whether you believe in the sovereignty of the United Stats and that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The constitution ensured the ultimate end of slavery and gave women and blacks the right to vote (all men are created equal). I doubt that when it comes to those issues you would bow to any other world law. Our constitution recognizes that God gave us our rights and that there is a ‘natural chain of command’ God > the individual > will of the people > Federal government. > State government. > other organizations. The Federal government acts on our behalf. We have hired it to carry out larger global issues. It is important to understand and accept that the powers that we have given to the President and Congress through the Federal Government allowed for the invasion of Iraq. We may both disagree with the Presidents and Congresses decision however it was legal under our system

      February 20, 2011 at 9:51 am |
  21. Liz Carter in Georgia

    NO JAY! That's who you are! 'THE COMPLAINER'! That's what you and the rest of your Obama hating gang do; you complain! He can't go to the wash-room without somebody complaining! 'Why did he have to go now'? 'Couldn't he have gone later'? 'What did he do'? 'I don't think he was transpaent enough'. He didn't call himself that name; You did! And if he is that, which I don't buy, he has a right to be one! I don't blame him for complaining whenever you all complain, I'd always remind you too of how we got here!

    February 20, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  22. Frank

    Wow Liz Carter in Georgia, you are so blinded by the Kool-Aid that you can't even put together a coherent argument. Obama said he would be the most transparent administration in response to the Democrats constantly complaining about Bush. Guess what? He's the least transparent President in my life time dating back to Ike. We don't hate Obama. We hate his policies, his philosophies and most certainly the friends that he keeps (William Ayers, Pastor Wright, etc.)

    February 20, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
  23. Liz Carter in Georgia

    All of that filibustering you did in trying to douse my reply to you on what I thought were BUSH war crimes, 'specifically' don't cut it. That's just another justification tactic! It was wrong, illegal, and selfish, PERIOD Jay! Please don't EVEN try to compare the womens' causes and black voting rights issues, trying to align them as the same as the IRAQ blunders' constitutionality, because it's not! The world law would've never tried to deter the AMERICAN GOVERNMENT from giving it's 'own' civil rights!!

    February 20, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      Nov 20, 2010 – The United Nations voted to removed “sexual orientation” from a resolution that protects people from arbitrary executions. In other words, the UN General Assembly this week voted to allow LGBT people to be executed without cause.

      February 21, 2011 at 7:35 am |
  24. Liz Carter in Georgia

    'Any OTHER world law'? Aren't there many other nations who're also sovereign; we run and tell them what and what not to do through the UN, OF WHICH WE ARE A PART? IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN, TUNISIA, EGYPT and many other nations are also sovereign or were sovereign! Are you saying that we have the right to do what we want, when we want because our 'IN-HOUSE' constitution gives us the right to defy world law and other countries don't have the right to do the same without a 'spanking' from us and the UN?

    February 20, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  25. Liz Carter in Georgia

    I don't understand why you answered my question with that sad observation, but we are still a member, Jay, so don't you think that we had a say on the vote. I wouldn't put it past us, we probably voted 'yes' too, because AMERICANS are two-faced that way! I'm saying you can't refer to the UN as any other world law when it comes to the UNITED STATES, because we are a member! And YES, @Frank; we ARE bound to the same governances as other sovereign countries! No talk for you anyway, I've had too much KOOL-AID!

    February 21, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      You said "The world law would've never tried to deter the AMERICAN GOVERNMENT from giving it's 'own' civil rights!!"

      February 22, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Frank

      If we are a sovereign nation how does the UN governance apply without our borders or with our actions. I will agree that a UN treaty which the US Senate ratifies becomes part of our Constitution and hence the law of the land. Case in point, they can write all the UN resolutions they want banning the private ownership of firearms. Doesn't matter. Our Constitution reaffirms our Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Simple as that.

      February 23, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  26. Liz Carter in Georgia

    You still hadn't responded to my questions, nor my statements! You're still asking me questions instead. But yes, that's what I said! A Civil Rights bill was just passed in this country for our LGBT family. Are you thinking that I will believe that the UNITED NATIONS is going to allow or put in place a mandate for the allowance of our executing them (LGBT) without cause? I don't think so! I don't believe it, and that goes for any other country sovereign or no! Stay focused Jay! Don't make me call you LIAR!

    February 22, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      Do you believe that UN law trumps US law or not? You can not have it both ways. You can not pick from UN because you think that makes President Bush guilty then turn around and say that the UN laws do not count on other subjects. I have stated my belief very clearly, that the UN laws do not apply to us. You still want President Bush tried by the World Court. Make up your mind.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:10 am |
  27. Liz Carter in Georgia

    I believe the UN is a gathered group of executives and officials from nations all over the globe, who do set international law and world policies to which every nation, who is a member is expected and obliged to comply. I will not say that international law trumps national law, but I will say that I believe when it comes to international relations, and that would include war, it should be sanctioned and authorized by the UN! As far as your assertion that I make up my mind, I don't see the confusion was!

    February 23, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  28. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Evidently you believe that UN law trumps US law, because you're the one who recited on this blog that the UN had passed a law allowing LGBT to be executed wthout cause Jay! I wasn't picking issues to claim UN versus US LAW on that issue! I flat out don't believe you on that one! I think that whole excerpt, if anything's to it, was just your way of trying to disparage and damage UN integrity for me, since I feel BUSH was wrong to defy the UNs' decision that he not invade IRAQ, and should be called on it!

    February 23, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  29. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Historically, Heads of Statesmen have been called 'to the mat' for simular actions or decisions. Some have been punished to the fullest extent of the law! I know this, had the tables been turned the other way; FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH, not 'President Bush', been COMING in and PRESIDENT OBAMA had been GOING out, leaving the UNITED STATES in the very same ditch, you and all of the rest of the OBAMA haters wouldn't have rested until he was tried and convicted! There wouldn't have been all of this 'whitewashing'!

    February 23, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  30. Liz Carter in Georgia

    @Frank; I believe that's the truth! That's why I said I was not 'pulling rank' so to speak, on the UNITED NATIONS laws/resolutions versus the UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION. Our 'in-home' CONSTITUTION is the law of our land and 'we the people' are justified and ratified by it. I was speaking of us dealing internationally; when we have missions or business that need to be performed or targeted outside of our borders. That's why I questioned the factualness of the UN LGBT resolution that Jay blogged about.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:43 pm |