Obama chooses Daley as chief of staff
WASHINGTON — Ushering in change at the top of his team, President Barack Obama has chosen William Daley to be his new chief of staff, choosing a veteran political manager with Wall Street ties to direct an operation now steaming toward re-election mode.
Daley will step into one of the most important and influential jobs in American government as an adviser and gatekeeper to Obama. He will replace Pete Rouse, the interim chief of the last three months, a behind-the-scenes Obama adviser who did not want the position permanently and recommended Daley for it.
Rouse will remain as a counselor to the president, an elevated position from his former job as senior adviser. Daley is expected to start within the next couple of weeks.
Two senior administration officials confirmed Obama’s decision to The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because it has not been announced.
Obama is expected to introduce Daley on Thursday afternoon at the White House.
Although Daley carries the name of a dynastic family of politics in Chicago, which is Obama’s hometown, he and the president haven’t been personally close. He offers criteria Obama wants: an outsider’s perspective, credibility with the business community, familiarity with the ways of the Cabinet and experience in navigating divided government.
Daley also wants the job. At 62, the move will thrust him into the heart of national politics just as Obama adapts to a new reality in Washington, with Republicans controlling the House, working to gut his signature health care law and pushing for major cuts in spending.
The White House shake up offered eye-catching symmetry to Washington’s first busy week of the new year, change at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue a day after a reconstituted Congress was convened with Republicans in charge in the House and in a position of greater empowerment in the Senate, albeit still in the minority there.
Obama informed his senior advisers of the change in a meeting on Thursday morning.
He made clear that no one is more valuable to him than Rouse, according to one of the officials in the room. The set-up means Obama gets both officials: Daley to run the grueling operation, Rouse to offer a range of advice and his years of experience with the Senate.
The move comes as Obama ushers in change across his senior leadership — the result of internal staff fatigue, a need to shift energy and people to Obama’s re-election campaign, and an adaptation to the fresh limits on Obama’s power. Although many of the names of the players may not be familiar to the electorate, the collective personnel changes will influence not just Obama but the national agenda.
Considered the most consuming job in the White House, the chief of staff shapes nearly everything that Obama deals with — how the president spends his time, how he pursues his strategies on foreign and domestic policy, how he deals with a politically deadlocked Congress and a skeptical electorate.
Rouse has been leading a review of how to restructure the White House since even before Rahm Emanuel quit the chief of staff’s job in October to run for Chicago mayor.
Now the changes are coming quickly.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced Wednesday he was resigning by early February, senior adviser David Axelrod will be leaving soon, and both of Obama’s deputy chiefs of staff, Jim Messina and Mona Sutphen, are exiting soon, too. David Plouffe, a key member of Obama’s inner circle as his former presidential campaign manager, will be joining the senior staff of the White House on Monday.
Daley emerged as a natural candidate, particularly after other internal candidates ended up in other positions. He is close to some of those in Obama’s orbit, including Axelrod, Emanuel and senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett.
Daley’s brother, Richard Daley, is the mayor of Chicago. William Daley has not sought office himself, but has long been immersed in politics.
He helped President Bill Clinton pass the North American Free Trade Agreement and later served as Clinton’s commerce secretary. Later, he ran Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign and the historic recount effort that ended with Gore conceding the race to George W. Bush.
When Obama launched his presidential campaign, the Daley family put aside its deep connections to Bill and Hillary Clinton and endorsed the young Illinois senator. Until then, Obama and the Daleys had largely operated separately in Illinois politics — not helping each other much but not attacking either. After Obama’s victory, Daley helped oversee the presidential transition.
The choice of Daley, a lawyer and banker who serves as Midwest chairman of JPMorgan Chase, could raise questions about the White House’s closeness with Wall Street just as Obama is eager to enforce reforms that benefit the little guy.
One official close to the president insisted that Daley understands that his job is to enforce and advance the president’s agenda.
Daley has centrist credentials and would join the White House team at a point when Obama is coming off a successful stretch of achievements that required compromises and bipartisan outreach.
White House officials say those accomplishments serve as a template for the months to come. But with Republicans now in control of the House and in a stronger position in the Senate, liberals worry that the moderate signals from the White House suggest more accommodation than confrontation with the GOP.
Daley laid out his political ideology last year upon joining the board of Third Way, a moderate Democratic think tank.
“We must acknowledge that the left’s agenda has not won the support of a majority of Americans — and, based on that recognition, we must steer a more moderate course,” he said at the time.
Daley is surely hoping his official announcement at the White House is less eventful than the last time he joined an administration.
During his December 1996 introduction as Clinton’s commerce secretary, Daley fainted, falling off the stage. Clinton rushed to Daley’s side, and quickly assured the audience that his new cabinet member was “fine.”
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