President Obama has named William J. Daley, the former Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration and currently an executive with JP Morgan Chase, as his new Chief of Staff.
Mr. Daley’s recruitment to Pennsylvania Avenue from the corporate boardroom is seen as a smart step by some in Washington, who argue that Mr. Obama has long needed a White House confidant who has the ear of the business community and a record of bipartisanship that might help the president negotiate with Republicans in Congress.
“I think it’s a very, very strong choice,” said Thomas J. Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been a harsh critic of the Obama administration and provided financial support that helped Republicans take control of the House in the November elections. “Daley is a business person who understands politics.”
I know this appointment is not sitting well with some liberals; they see this as another sign that Mr. Obama is courting the corporate overlords just as he did on such things as the Wall Street bailout and parts of the healthcare bill. I don’t know enough about the inside-the-Beltway games, but it seems to me that the job of the Chief of Staff is to give the president advice and make the people in the White House do the things the president wants to accomplish. They aren’t there to agree with him on everything, either. Unlike some previous presidents, Mr. Obama is not looking for a yes-man; in fact, I think he has shown that he prefers to have people who are willing to disagree with him on things in order to figure out what to do. Besides, with the House in the hands of the Republicans, it’s probably not such a bad idea to have a Chief of Staff who can at least talk to them. (By the way, Howard Dean thinks Mr. Daley is a good pick, and remember, he represents the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.)
I’m also not convinced that the job of White House Chief of Staff is, in the long term, the one person who can make or break a presidency. That’s up to the president.