The Road Less Traveled

Faint signs of maturity are popping up in the Clinton White House. Where it once was deemed essential for every White House aide who considered himself indispensable – meaning everyone – to to with Clinton everywhere, the Mideast trip last week was notable for those who didn’t go.

First there was Chief of Staff Leon E. Panetta. Panetta was going to go but then backed out Monday, deciding he had plenty to do here.

Deputy chief of state Harold Ickes and deputy White House counsel Bruce Lindsey, who used to be the traveling chief of staff and still provides legal counsel on domestic trips, were seen toiling at the White House last week. Deputy chief of staff Erskine Bowles, who oversees advance and scheduling matters, was the senior-most staff member outside the foreign policy crowd.

Advance and scheduling director Billy Webster stayed home planning trips. Cabinet secretary John Podesta sent deputy Todd Stern to handle the document signing and other duties.