Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Daley Out, Lew In: No "Getting-To-Know-You-Period" Necessary for New Chief

Politico Arena Topic: What does departure of Daley mean?

White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley’s imminent departure is not a surprise. Increasingly, he was a lightning rod of criticism both within the White House and on Capitol Hill. His rocky relationship with Senate Democrats and public missteps during the debt ceiling negotiations and over scheduling President Obama’s jobs plan speech to Congress are well documented. In November, some of Daley’s administrative responsibilities were transferred to White House Counselor Pete Rouse, who was the interim chief between Rahm Emanuel and Daley. This move of downgrading the chief’s role—unprecedented in the modern era—signaled that Daley’s grip on the position, and on the White House, was tenuous. From that moment he became a lame duck and it was simply a question of “when” he would depart, not “if” he would depart.

The fact that Daley will leave the White House at the beginning of 2012 rather than closer to the election should be a net positive for the Obama administration. That he is being replaced by Jack Lew, a seasoned White House player with a long history as a Congressional staffer (including a lengthy stint as committee staff for House Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-MA)) and relationships on Capitol Hill, will be very important to improving morale within the White House and repairing the relationship with Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and company. Lew knows his way around the West Wing, and as OMB Director during the Clinton and Obama administrations, knows a thing or two about budgets. As a current member of the White House, he also has a relationship with President Obama which means a “getting-to-know-you-period” between the President and Chief can be avoided. Finally, as the Obama White House prepares to spend the year slugging it out with Congressional Republicans over budget priorities and the deficit, who better to lead the negotiations than a chief of staff who has been OMB Director for two presidents?

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