Thursday, January 6, 2011


William Daley is going to be the new WH Chief of Staff.  In general, my reaction is pretty positive.

I can repeat what I said when Peter Rouse got the interim gig back in October.  First, these positions are quite important.  Second, in my view at least, far too much is made of the "real" ideological leanings of these people.  We should want to know whether they're well-equipped to do the job.  

When I was describing Rouse's strengths, I listed: "he's a problem-solver, he doesn't cultivate enemies, he knows the Washington landscape well, he has an excellent working relationship with the president."  As far as I know, those all apply to Daley, as well, with the possible exception of an as yet unproven working relationship with Barack Obama.  I'd say it's also a plus that Daley knows his way around a presidential campaign, since keeping the presidency running during one of those is going to be one of his challenges over the next two years.  I like the idea that when the campaign demands that Obama absolutely, positively needs to be in San Dimas tomorrow or else California is lost, Daley will have a good idea of how to evaluate that request.

I can also say that my biggest hesitation about Rouse, enough to make me suggest at the time that Obama would be better off seeking someone else, was that Rouse does nothing to address the administration's biggest weakness, which is its administration of the executive branch departments and agencies.  Daley, as a former cabinet secretary, should be more oriented towards that side of the presidency than the numerous former Hill staffers in the Obama WH (and, perhaps more to the point, the former Senator in the Oval Office) tend to be.  

Now, all that said, if he doesn't develop a good working relationship with the president, he'll be a poor chief of staff, and I have no idea whether he will or won't.  But for the most part, and from what's on record so far, Daley seems to be a reasonable choice for the job. 


  1. Daley and Rahm Emanuel have similar resumes--Chicago, investment banking, the Clinton administration--and similar New Democratic ideologies. But Obama didn't listen to Emanuel when he said the same things about health care reform in early 2009 (and repeated them emphatically after the Dem's lost their filbuster-proof Senate majority) that Daley's been saying in hindsight. Obama's appointment of Daley now looks like an expression of regret.

  2. I dunno, it'll certainly be played that way, and if Obama didn't see thar coming, it's really just on him. But as far as expressions of regret go, replacing your CoS with someone so like him while ramping up a major campaign to defend the contentious policy to the hilt isn't exactly the strongest one. Indeed, looking at all the new staffing choices- Donilon, Goolsbee, Spurling, and everyone else who's basically just moving up a rung- it seems that Obama has few things he'd take back about the last two years.

  3. Jonathan:

    Good call all around. Rouse's strengths helped for the few months those strengths were most valuable and his weakness is covered by Daley.

    After the two years of wrenching legislative battles which brought new responsiblites to executive agencies, and even new agencis, the White House's next two years will be essentially bureaucratic. They need a great bureaucrat to build and entrench the new regimes.

    I was going to mention upon Alfred Kuhn's death last week that the reason Airline DeReg worked for Carter and S & L DeReg did not, and the reason Welform Reform worked for Clinton and Deritivaties DeReg did not is that S & L and Derivatives DeReg both happened at the tail end of Democratic Presidencies, leading to regulatory capture from birth when a Repub took over mere months later.

    All I want Daley to do is get HCR and FinReg up and running. The fact that he's a banker just means he knows the tricks--think Old Joe Kennedy and the SEC.

  4. "The fact that he's a banker just means he knows the tricks--think Old Joe Kennedy and the SEC."

    I suppose that's the hope. But even if it's not really the case, I don't think his banking past hurts FinReg. I'm willing to be proven wrong, but it seems to me that running the White House is such a "crisis of the day" type of job that the CoS has little time to really shape long-term regulatory projects, or really do anything besides keeping the President and the White House moving. I feel like recent history backs me up on this- Rahm didn't run Stimulus oversight, Biden did. Andy Card didn't run NCLB, Margaret Spellings did. God knows every administration can rock and roll however it sees fit, but it seems like right now, the CoS has a fairly defined role that precludes controlling any one specific issue, and it seems like Obama is most comfortable with his CsoS having that role. So, as far as FinReg goes, I'd still guess that Warren has a bigger role to play than Daley.


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