Friend of Barack

Michael Robertson was a baseball player in his youth, he tells Senior Editor Matthew Weigelt in an interview for this week’s cover story. Says his highlight as a college athlete was catching a perfect game. That’s not the most important player on the field, mind you; the pitcher is the guy who invariably gets the credit for being perfect. But the catcher is usually the first teammate the flawless pitcher thanks.

Now Robertson is taking his signal-calling skills to the General Services Administration, where he was recently installed in three (count ‘em, 3) key positions: associate director of governmentwide policy, chief acquisition officer and White House liaison.

The first two jobs are the catching and throwing equivalents at GSA. Here Robertson doesn’t have a lot of minor league training, Matthew reports. But you don’t get to this level of influence in the federal government unless you are well equipped to play the bureaucratic game. And the third job, it seems, will give Robertson the political leverage he’ll need to perform the other two.

The reasoning here is fairly self-evident, if you know one more thing about him. Robertson is an Obama man. We don’t know if he plays basketball with the athletic commander-in-chief, or even if he can take him off the dribble. We do know that he’s been with Barack Obama since he ran for the Senate in 2004, in political, legislative and legal counsel roles. In other words, he knows how to call plays that make his boss look good.

And that’s how Robertson sees his new role, he tells Matthew. Obama has made procurement reform a priority of his administration, which may play well among voters even as his notions threaten to wreak havoc with the system of buying goods and services for the government. Robertson’s job is not only to catch Obama’s strikes and curve balls, but to let the pitcher know when he’s getting seriously off track.

Also this week, we have two reports on the recent court ruling that put Microsoft’s Word back in its box. A federal judge ordered the software giant to stop selling its flagship word-processing software because of what the plaintiff, i4i of Canada, called a willful infringement of one of its patents. Trudy Walsh of our sister group, the GCN Lab, looks at the word processing alternatives should this legal tussle continues. And John Stein Monroe provides a sample of the many comments we’ve gotten on this story from people who use Word but aren’t all that happy about it.

About the Author

David Rapp is editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week and VP of content for 1105 Government Information Group.

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