WELCOME TO THE DALEY SHOW…. The personnel moves weren’t exactly subtle. We knew Pete Rouse’s role as White House Chief of Staff would be temporary, and for about a week, we knew former Clinton-era Commerce Secretary Bill Daley was at the top of the list of replacements.
And in about two hours, it’ll be official — President Obama will introduce Daley as his new CoS, and Rouse will become a senior advisor to the president.
It’s hard to know exactly what to make of this. The most notable aspect of Daley’s background isn’t his work in the Clinton administration, it’s his recent work in the private sector — Daley is currently a JPMorgan Chase executive. The prospect of bringing in a banker to have a leading role in running the White House isn’t exactly welcome news to the president’s base.
Ezra Klein had a good item this morning, posted before we knew for sure Daley is getting the job.
Imagine I told you that one of the candidates President Obama is considering for chief of staff opposed the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, opposed doing health-care reform and led the Chamber of Commerce’s effort to loosen the post-Enron regulations on the accounting and auditing professions. His major qualification for the job is that he’s extremely well liked by the business community, in part because he routinely advocates for their interests and in part because he’s a top executive at J.P. Morgan. His theory of politics is that the Democratic Party has become too liberal and needs to tack right. Last year, he doubled down on that argument by joining the board of Third Way.
Now imagine I told you that one of the candidates President Obama is considering for chief of staff has been endorsed by Howard Dean as a “huge plus” for the Obama administration and previously chaired Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign. Dean, of course, was the great liberal hope in 2004, and has been a key voice for progressives ever since. Gore’s 2000 campaign was a notably populist effort, in tone if not in content.
Now imagine I told you they were the same guy.
The banker background isn’t encouraging, but I could find it relatively easy to overlook this. By all accounts, Daley enjoys the support and respect of those who’ve worked with him, and has proven himself as an excellent manager. Those are good qualities to have in this job.
But it’s his political instincts that rankle. Daley has opposed some of the same Obama policy achievements I think are worth supporting, and Daley’s belief that the mainstream Democratic agenda is too liberal strikes me as absurd.
The flipside, though, is that I’m not sure just how much this matters. Rahm Emanuel wasn’t exactly a choice to get excited about, and his ideological instincts weren’t quite reliable, either. Indeed, it’s an open secret that Emanuel pleaded with Obama to forget about health care reform in 2009, insisting that the political investment wasn’t worth the reward.
And as we know, the president ignored him, and pursued the priorities he wanted to pursue. Emanuel’s instincts didn’t get in the way of the best two years of progressive policymaking since LBJ.
That’s why I’m not worked up either way about the Daley selection. He wouldn’t have been my pick — Obama neglected to ask me for my input again — but as far as I can tell, this isn’t a White House in which the chief of staff necessarily sets the agenda. That’s the president’s job.
To be sure, a CoS isn’t irrelevant, and Daley will have enormous influence over who gets the president’s ear, and what kind of information reaches the Oval Office desk. This clearly has an impact. But I’m not convinced that Daley’s DLC-like instincts will necessarily drag the White House to the right, any more than Emanuel’s instincts on health care dragged the president away from his commitment.