Obama taps a Daley as new chief of staff

Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 7, 2011

William M. Daley has the deep political experience one would expect in a top White House hire: scion of a Chicago political dynasty, adviser to numerous presidential candidates, former Cabinet secretary who also relishes exerting influence behind the scenes.

But in turning to Daley as his new chief of staff on Thursday, President Obama was looking as much at the other pages of his resume. With extensive experience as a businessman and Wall Street executive, Daley comes to the administration positioned to help the president rebuild his frayed relationship with the corporate world.

Daley, 62, has spent a lifetime moving between the corporate and government spheres, often appearing to use one as a steppingstone to the other. A lawyer serving as Midwestern chairman of J.P. Morgan Chase, Daley has been a bank president, vice chairman of a boutique investment firm and president of a communications giant. He has been on the boards of Boeing, Fannie Mae and Electronic Data Systems, earning a sizable fortune along the way.

Announcing Daley on Thursday, Obama said his new chief of staff has "led major corporations; he possesses a deep understanding of how jobs are created and how to grow our economy."

Daley will now assume one of the most influential positions in government, taking over as chief of staff in the next few weeks. He replaces Pete Rouse, who has filled the job temporarily since Rahm Emanuel left the White House last year to run for mayor of Chicago.

Daley is himself a major figure in Chicago politics. He is the son of legendary Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley and brother of the city's retiring mayor, Richard M. Daley - the man Emanuel hopes to replace.

Daley will bring an outsider's perspective to a White House that has been criticized as too insular. Although Obama and Daley have crossed paths over the years, they do not know each other well.

Moderate views

A sometimes outspoken centrist, Daley has been critical of what he considered the Democratic Party's liberal drift. He warned in December 2009 that Democrats can either "plot a more moderate, centrist course or risk electoral disaster not just in the upcoming midterms but in many elections to come."

His moderate views and Wall Street credentials make him an unexpected choice for a president who has railed against corporate irresponsibility and tried, with limited success, to appease restive liberals who think he has not been tough enough on bankers.

Some Democrats reacted harshly to the appointment of Daley, who has worked as head of Chase's Office of Corporate Social Responsibility - which includes the bank's lobbying arm.

"I believe that they just tilt too far toward that Wall Street crowd, and they're going to keep moving in that direction," said Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa). Nonetheless, he said Daley can "make the trains run on time."

Republicans and business leaders were more enthusiastic. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the choice sounded like " a good idea." Thomas Donahue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, called it a "strong appointment."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2011 The Washington Post Company