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Tilting at Windmills

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January 6, 2011

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.

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (36)

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I hear you, Steve. But if only for political reasons, this choice is disappointing. There isn't a reliable person that Obama could depend on that would excite the base, or at least, not aggravate us? Seriously, what gives?

Posted by: Chris on January 6, 2011 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

First and foremost, the President needs to take a more visible role in shaping the Beltway narrative. Lead, don't react. Lay out a vision, and try to cut through the noise. He could go a long way to helping himself by communicating better. With the imbeciles now running the House, making any of his legislative goals virtually impossible, he should have more time to do that.

That said, the Daley pick doesn't make a lot of sense from the outside looking in. The optics are awful. The thin-skinned, self-important a-holes in the business community aren't going to treat Obama any better because of the pick(if that was one of Obama's goals). And Daley's comments on some of the President's legislative goals don't exactly inspire confidence.

But I'm not in the room and don't know the man.

Posted by: Holmes on January 6, 2011 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

It looks like Dick Morris redux. I wonder, does Daley suck prostitute's toes too?

Posted by: SteveT on January 6, 2011 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

One must bend themselves into pretzels to find anything less than horror at this choice.

Posted by: tommybones on January 6, 2011 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

What's with the Dean endorsement? What is everyone here missing?

Posted by: RollaMO on January 6, 2011 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Daley seems to have the support of Al Gore and Howard Dean, two heroes of the liberal movement. From what I have read, Daley is a great manager. Politically maybe similar to Rahm, but personally very different.

Posted by: Jason on January 6, 2011 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Washington has become one massive, bipartisan circle jerk.

-meanwhile China builds roads in Africa- all the better to extract that continent's riches.

Thank god we still have Dancing with the Stars to keep us distracted. . .

Posted by: DAY on January 6, 2011 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

The RepubliKlans will now continue screaming about corruption, and the "Chicago Connection!"

Wasn't there someone better out there?

Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 6, 2011 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Jason said:
From what I have read, Daley is a great manager.

And you don't think that, at this very moment, the Republicans and their corporate johns aren't putting together commercials that say "Even Obama's new chief of staff opposes Obama's socialist agenda of nationalizing health care and imposing job-killing regulations on Wall Street."?

Posted by: SteveT on January 6, 2011 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

"Emanuel's instincts didn't get in the way of the best two years of progressive policymaking since LBJ."

Are you kidding? If there was a WH Chief of Staff who cared about getting a truly progressive healthcare reform bill through Congress, maybe single payer wouldn't have been taken off the table before starting to negotiate. Maybe constant pressure from the White House would have gotten the middle class tax cuts past the Senate without upper income cuts, and before the midterms so Democratic voters would be more excited about showing up.

The most that can be said is we had the best two years of progressive policymaking since LBJ despite Emmanuel's instincts. Thinking about what could have been makes me sad.

Posted by: MCD on January 6, 2011 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like somebody is starting his presidential campaign. It's going to cost a lot.

Posted by: Boolaboola on January 6, 2011 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

And you don't think that, at this very moment, the Republicans and their corporate johns aren't putting together commercials that say "Even Obama's new chief of staff opposes Obama's socialist agenda of nationalizing health care and imposing job-killing regulations on Wall Street."?

yes, but there isnt an election for another two years. By that time its old news. Same as with the end-of-life counseling provisions -- get them going now, when there is no traction for the opposition.

Posted by: troglodyte on January 6, 2011 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Goody Wall Street has an insider who offices next door to the President. Just who in the White House is going to advocate for the American people?

Seriously, the people getting the shaft from the insiders in administration are the American people.

Is there a party for people who really care about the American dream and America's people?

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 6, 2011 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

I thought maybe we would start the New Year without the 'it's all about ME' whining but...altho Daley would not be my pick to be elected to something, I'm not sure he is a BAD pick. One of the things the Obama WH did NOT do well in the last two years is publicize their WINS. I'm thinking a Dem that thinks like a Republican is not so bad. Maybe he can begin to blunt some of the lies coming out of McConnell's mouth. And THAT would be a very GOOD thing.

Posted by: SYSPROG on January 6, 2011 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Aside from the -- frankly bizarre and inexplicable -- kind words from Dean, all signs point to this being a disastrous pick for liberals.

Al Gore liked him enough to run his 2000 campaign into the ground? Color me unimpressed. A good argument can be made that Gore's fundamental mistake was in allowing asshole banker-types to run his campaign. It cheapened and undermined his message that he was "for the people instead of the powerful". In other words, by picking Daley, Gore lost the credibility among real liberals, many of whom stayed home or defected to Ralph Nader. But, by running a faux-populist campaign, Gore alienated the corporatist independents and Democrats who were bamboozled by Bush's "compassionate conservatism" bullshit.

My guess is that Dean has personally rubbed shoulders with Daley, likes Daley personally, is impressed with Daley's raw political talents, and is unwilling to criticize Daley despite Daley's odious ideological views and frequent hippie-punching.

Posted by: square1 on January 6, 2011 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like somebody Obama can trust to carry the campaign contribution checks from Wall Street. Obama actually campaigned on "no lobbyists" in his administration. What a hoot? Well now somebody will have Dimmy Timmy Geithner's back since Summers, the other Wall Street lobbyist, has crawled back under his rock.

Posted by: tko on January 6, 2011 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Each individual's enthusiasm over the Daley pick, or lack thereof, reflects their enthusiasm over the performance of the Obama administration over the past 2 years.

If, generally, you are happy with what Obama accomplished and you think Obama just needs a couple of tweaks to his finely-tuned machine, then you will likely view the Daley pick as a smart move. With Daley, we are likely to get more of the same.

However, if you are truly disappointed with Obama's performance than the Daley pick is simply the latest disappointment.

If you are REALLY disappointed with the escalation in Afghanistan (despite Obama's campaign promises to do so, the situation looks far more pointless than when he was inaugurated); and

If you are REALLY disappointed with the no-strings-attached bailouts of the largest banks and the continuing problem of subsidizing morally-hazardous risk taking by TBTF institutions; and

If you are REALLY disappointed by the way the administration embraced off-shore drilling before the BP disaster and then let BP run the show afterwords; and

IF you are REALLY disappointed that the administration refused to investigate ANY illegal behavior in the Bush/Cheney administration; and

IF you are REALLY disappointed that the administration has made deficit-reduction a far higher priority than job-creation; and

If you are REALLY disappointed in the trickle-down tax deal; and

IF you are REALLY disappointed in the failure of the DOJ to aggressively investigate and prosecute criminal fraud on Wall Street; and

IF you are REALLY disappointed that the administration has not stepped in more aggressively to stop foreclosures and especially address foreclosure fraud; and

IF you are REALLY disappointed that single-payer and the public option were not aggressively promoted by the White House; and

IF you are REALLY disappointed that climate change continues to be a low priority for the administration; and

IF you are REALLY disappointed about the administration's pseudo-deficit-reduction commission, appointment of Alan Simpson, and opening the doors to attacking Social Security then; and

IF you belief that the fundamental promise of the Obama campaign (e.g. to take dramatic steps to change how business is done in Washington) has been a failure...

Bill Daley is REALLY not the Chief of Staff that you want.

Leaving aside my personal views, I would argue that the 2010 midterms was a referendum by the Democratic Party about whether the administration was generally on the right track or on the wrong track. I would argue that the massive decline in turnout among Democrats will occur again in 2012 should the administration pursue a course that is the same as, or to the right of, the course they followed for the past 2 years.

Posted by: square1 on January 6, 2011 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

This is getting boring. Every time Obama does something, everyone starts debating the political merits. Isn't it clear by now that he cares less about the politics, and more about the governance? I'm not saying that politics is not important, or that Obama ignores political implications. Of course he's political. But I don't think he's controlled by politics; what concerns him more than pleasing the pundits is getting sh-t done. And by any measure, he's proven he's good at that.

My guess is that he picked Daley for the same reason he picked Rahm: he trusts the guy, and he thinks Daley has the skills to help run the White House and get stuff accomplished. Why is that such a difficult concept to grasp?

Posted by: Fred App on January 6, 2011 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Rahm Emmanuel leaves, Pete Rouse comes in and immediately we have a lame duck session worth remembering.

Thanks, Pete, now you can go.

Why is this reasonable?

Posted by: cld on January 6, 2011 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Rahm was a useful lightening rod for Obama, but Rahm leaked on the way out that the lack of fight in this administration starts at the top.

Given Daley's disastrous counseling during the Florida recount in 2000, this will not get better, and may well get worse. Expect liberals to be hung out to dry. Perhaps they will again attempt to rally the base in 2012 by telling them to "buck up."

Next stop, President Jeb.

Posted by: Taylor on January 6, 2011 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is insane. I'm starting to really think he is clueless. Go back to teaching Constitutional Law..NOW, please.

See Frank Richs' column in the NYT from a few weeks ago..wherein he likens Obama's bizarrely kind and passive relationship with the Re-Thugs to the "Stokholm Syndrome".

I truly think Rich is onto something.

Posted by: Stoclholm Syndrome, you betya, Frank Rich on January 6, 2011 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

That's "Stockholm Syndrome", rather.

Either that or he's just a right of center guy who fooled us all..

At least with Hilary we would have known what we were getting.

Posted by: Stockholm Syndrome afflicts Obama on January 6, 2011 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Howard Dean thinks the choice of Daley is terrific; that Daley is committed to progressive values (like his brother) and is knowledgeable enough about business, Wall Street, and Commerce to be able to deal with the looney Republicans who consider themselves to be the elected representatives of corporations, the businesses that elected them.

Posted by: jjm on January 6, 2011 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Makes sense to me. Here's a guy who understands how the sausage is made in Washington, and yet he believed that HCR was too far to the LEFT. Two interpretations of this:

* the guy is pretty dim (we can't confirm or deny)

* the fact that he perceives this is solid evidence of WH message failure -- how Obama's actions have been perceived outside of Washington by people connected to important constituencies.

One possibility is to let him guide the actual policy itself -- taking it to the center-right. Another approach is to do what you intended to do all along but have this guy as a sounding board and shaper of what you're doing, to make it appear as reasonable as it really is.

Another thing to keep in mind: Whatever Obama can achieve through Boehner's House is going to be achieved by having the business executive community demand it from Boehner. Immigration. Education. Energy. The business community could get behind any or all of that. Boehner will follow marching orders. Having Daley in the oval office maximizes the chances of bringing business interests to bear on the Speaker of the House.

Posted by: Mark on January 6, 2011 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Of course President Obummer would do this. How else will he be able to fuck things up, now that Larry Summers is gone?

Every time I think this SOB just maybe might actually be the guy I thought I was working for when I raised $350K for his campaign from people who had to think twice about making a campaign contribution because they weren't the typical rich asshole who contributes to presidential campaigns, the asshole goes and shows me what a fool I was.

Well, "won't be fooled again," as the song says. Watching him sell us all down the river over the next two years while he tells us he's the only "progressive" choice we have in 2012. He reminds me why I'm glad I didn't vote for that @#$#@!! Clinton twice.

Posted by: TCinLA on January 6, 2011 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

that Daley is committed to progressive values (like his brother)

Do you mean his brother, the murderer of Fred Hampton? The son of the biggest sonofabitch in the history of Chicago? That one????

Letting a Daley near anything anyone considers something worthwhile is a recipe for disaster and has been for the past 70 years.

Posted by: TCinLA on January 6, 2011 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

One final thought to follow up on TCinLA's comment.

One of the more annoying accusations that has been reflexively been leveled against Obama is that he practices "machine Chicago politics". In reality, Obama rose through Chicago/Illinois politics about as independently as is realistically possible. Obviously Obama rubbed shoulders with Bill Daley, but Obama hardly owes his political fortunes to a political machine.

By inviting Bill Daley into his administration, Obama is trashing the last vestiges of his own brand as a political outsider. Obama is inviting Americans to think of the corrupt politics that were practiced by Richard J. Daley, Bill's father, when they think of Obama. Brilliant.

Posted by: square1 on January 6, 2011 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Oh honest to God...'won't be fooled AGAIN'...got three words for you...PRESIDENT JOHN MCCAIN...yep don't vote for the man again...of course, we wouldn't have even gotten THIS far...but NOT GOOD ENOUGHT...so let's see...




Posted by: SYSPROG on January 6, 2011 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

We like to chide Republicans for not being able to make appropriate distinctions. So why are we now acting like we can't make an appropriate distinction?

COS is not a policy job. The position doesn't set policy. The job is about running the internals of the White House. If Daley does this well, then good for him, and us. If not, bad. I don't care about his policy positions and record. Why should I? Because it makes good cable tv and blog copy? Not a good enough reason, sorry.

Nothing to see here, move along.

Posted by: thymezone on January 6, 2011 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

I think the remaining Madoff son is available. They supposedly turned in their dad. Sounds like White House material to me.

Posted by: tko on January 6, 2011 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Klein says "previously chaired Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign" like it's a good thing.

That would be the campaign that couldn't beat George W. Bush. The campaign that beat George W. Bush and still couldn't beat him.

Posted by: Rick Massimo on January 6, 2011 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, thymezone, but the COS isn't just the traffic manager of the White House, or rather he is, but in a crucial way. He's the gatekeeper who decides face time with the President -- in other words, what gets the President's attention. That alone influences policy enormously. The other thing the COS does is take the ball down the field. Don't kid yourself. It made a huge difference that Rahm was ambivalent about doing health care. If he'd gotten behind it a hundred per cent, the politics would have been handled better and more credit would have flowed to Obama. But Rahm didn't do that and now he's gone. Daley will do the politics better, I think, but in the service of shoving Obama to the right. And that ain't good.

Posted by: dalloway on January 6, 2011 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

If President Obama wants this person as his CoS I fail to see what having a stroke about it accomplishes.
For those certain that Mr. Obama is the Anti-Progressive, it merely confirms their fantasies as I'm certain Mr. Daley has already informed the President who will or will not be allowed in to see Mr. Obama. That's his job, isn't it? Well, reading what some post here, it is...
In case people haven't noticed, Mr. Obama is ALREADY operating on a bi-partisan basis. He retains qualified Republican department heads, appoints qualified Republicans as Ambassadors and members of commissions. You may have noticed that the only group omitted from President Obama's out-reach is the one made up of Republican politicians - and, much to the derision of many posters, he's continually encouraging them to work for their employers - us.
I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I keep getting the impression that Mr. Obama is doing his best to isolate the insane, Teabagging idiots that make up the base of the present Republican Party. And the politicians they vote into office.
Of course, I've been wrong before...

Posted by: Doug on January 6, 2011 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Obama has been such a disappointment to progressives. He got health-care reform, financial reform, ended DADT, ended combat in Iraq. I know that he didn't go as far in any of those areas as progressives would like, but does anyone honestly think this country would elect someone farther to the left than Obama?

Hillary? Please.Let's remember that it was Bill Clinton who gave us such progressive legislation as DADT and welfare reform. In fact, can you name a single piece of progressive legislation passed by his administration?

Posted by: Fred App on January 7, 2011 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

"COS is not a policy job. The position doesn't set policy. The job is about running the internals of the White House."

LMAO. I see that all the intelligent commentators have left as well.

Posted by: Disputo on January 8, 2011 at 3:48 AM | PERMALINK

TCinLA sez

"Do you mean [Bill Daley's] brother, the murderer of Fred Hampton?"

You seem to be confusing Richard M. Daley with Ed Hanrahan.

Posted by: Disputo on January 8, 2011 at 3:59 AM | PERMALINK



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