Daley shifts White House responsibilities

Bill Daley’s tenure as White House chief of staff has proven to be more difficult than administration insiders had expected. When he was brought in, Daley, a former Commerce Secretary and banking executive, was supposed to help improve relations with Congress, set the stage for constructive negotiations with Republicans, and strengthen White House ties with business leaders.

Those efforts haven’t gone well. Congressional Democrats have found Daley hard to work with; Republicans don’t want to negotiate with anyone about anything, and the White House has adopted a more combative tone overall.

It’s not a surprise, then, that Daley’s “responsibilities are shifting” in the West Wing.

On Monday, Mr. Daley turned over day-to-day management of the West Wing to Pete Rouse, a veteran aide to President Obama, according to several people familiar with the matter. It is unusual for a White House chief of staff to relinquish part of the job.

A senior White House official who attended Monday’s staff meeting where Mr. Daley made the announcement said that his new role has not yet been fully defined. But in recent weeks, Mr. Daley has focused more on managing relations with influential outsiders.

Some of the relevant details are unclear, most notably whether Daley was demoted or whether he initiated the shift. Insiders are characterizing this change as an “enhancement” of Daley’s responsibilities, but there’s no getting around a simple fact: the job of a president’s chief of staff is to manage the day-to-day operations of the White House, and Daley will no longer do this.

Instead, according to the Wall Street Journal piece, he’ll be more of an “ambassador,” focusing on cultivating relationships “on the outside,” while Rouse will be the “inside manager.”

I’d note, by the way, that Rouse served as acting White House CoS from October 2010 to mid-January 2011 — a time when the White House put together quite a winning streak. Rouse also enjoys strong support among White House staffers and, as a former leading Hill staffer, will get along much better with congressional Democrats. (Harry Reid, in particular, had no use for Daley, and was known to have complained about Daley directly to the president.)

As someone who was less than thrilled when Daley got the job, I’m not exactly sorry to see the “shift” in his responsibilities. Regardless, I’d argue the more Rouse is helping run the West Wing, the better.