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Gene Sperling, Director, National Economic Council Gene Sperling, Director, National Economic Council

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The White House

Gene Sperling, Director, National Economic Council

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(Richard A. Bloom)

Few officials in Washington can boast a bureaucratic comeback story like Sperling's. Having been chief economic adviser to candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008, Sperling found himself frozen out of the Obama administration in early 2009, and he was nervous about his future prospects after spending eight years in the think-tank Siberia of the George W. Bush years. But Sperling's old ally from the Clinton administration, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, brought him in as an adviser, at which point Sperling began to prove himself invaluable. Deploying the expertise he'd developed as President Clinton's National Economic Council director and a negotiator of the 1997 balanced-budget agreement, Sperling led Obama's team in the first round of debt and tax negotiations. Obama also came to depend on the progressive Sperling as his point man on pro-middle-class programs, especially the $447 billion American Jobs Act. When Lawrence Summers departed in 2011, Sperling was rewarded with his old job. Always calm and restrained (to veteran Sperling watchers, reporter Bob Woodward's claim that Sperling had threatened him over his take on the debt talks was laughable), the Ann Arbor, Mich., native may well appeal to Obama's own acquired Midwestern sensibility, as well as his athleticism. Sperling, 54, was captain of the University of Minnesota's championship tennis team and later graduated from Yale Law School. In appointing him council director, Obama cited Sperling's "work ethic." No one doubts it now.

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