Topic A: What should new White House chief of staff William Daley do?

President Obama has selected former Commerce Secretary William Daley as his new Chief of Staff.
Friday, January 7, 2011; 5:30 PM

The Post asked experts what William Daley, President Obama's new chief of staff, must do in his new role. Below are responses from Mack McLarty, Dana Perino, Paul Blumenthal, Tom C. Korologos and John H. Sununu.


President of McLarty Associates and chief of staff to President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1994

Bill Daley needs to help Barack Obama do what Bill Clinton did after the 1994 elections: focus on voters' problems, move to the center and fight for progressive values from that position. President Obama has shown that he heard the lessons of November 2010. He has reached out to the business community, prioritized passage of the South Korea free-trade agreement, and deftly negotiated with congressional Republicans to ensure passage of New START, repeal the ban on gays in the military, and ensure a burst of continued stimulus and unemployment benefits with his big tax cut deal.

As a moderate strongly rooted in Democratic principles and politics, Bill Daley is the right person to advance this vision. I worked closely with him in the Clinton years - he led our NAFTA ratification effort and served as a key interlocutor with business as secretary of commerce. But he is no colorless technocrat and no Republican shill. He's a Daley from Chicago, schooled in the art of the possible but with a heart firmly rooted in the needs of lunch-bucket voters who have supported Daleys for 50 years. I've seen Bill with chief executives, civil rights leaders and union organizers, and he's comfortable with them all.

And to Democrats who fret about a move to the center, I'm having flashbacks to 1995, at this same stage of the Clinton presidency. Take it from me: Obama's second term will be a lot more satisfying than a Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin first term.


White House press secretary to President George W. Bush

Personnel changes give organizations unique opportunities to communicate a message. That's especially true for an embattled commander in chief. Remember when President Bush nominated Robert Gates to run the Defense Department, Tony Snow to be the press secretary, and Michael Mukasey to lead the Justice Department? All three of those appointments sent a message that change, it was a-comin'.

The selection of William Daley sent the message that President Obama was trying to relay: Business community, I heard you loud and clear - you think I'm anti-business, even though I've no earthly idea why - so, herewith, my new chief of staff. Will that satisfy you?

Well, let's just call it a good first step. Now for the follow-through. No doubt, Daley brings considerable experience and talents to the role, and he'll be a steady hand in the choppy waters ahead.

One of the first things he could do is be a check on the language used in speeches and statements, and he could start by stripping out the class warfare messaging. However, scripted words haven't been the only things that have put the White House in hot water - it's those off-script moments that have caused them the most trouble. And there's not much a chief of staff can do about that.


Senior writer at the Sunlight Foundation

Though I have serious misgivings about the selection of William Daley as President Obama's next chief of staff, perhaps a "Nixon goes to China" moment is in the cards.

The president took some early steps to create greater transparency in the White House, establishing requirements to ensure that special interests didn't get an inside track. But as he said after the midterm elections, Obama hasn't done enough: "The American people want to see more transparency, more openness. . . . I take responsibility for . . . not having pushed harder on some of those issues."

Perhaps Daley is the man to make it happen.

At the top of the list should be real lobby disclosure reform, as the president campaigned on in 2008 and asked Congress to tackle in his 2010 State of the Union. This means increasing the depth and breadth of reports on lobbying activities. Reducing the threshold for registering lobbyists, disclosing lobbyist contacts and requiring real-time reporting of those trying to influence policymaking is key to transparency. This should apply to the White House visitor logs, too.


Strategic adviser at DLAPiper; worked for or advised Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush

1. On Monday, meets with the president and vice president with cameras rolling, when the president formally "bestows knighthood" on Daley and says: "When Bill Daley speaks, it is the same as when I am speaking."

2. Daley thanks the president and says, "At noon, I am starting a 'listening tour' of the congressional leadership and other venues around town. The first stop will be a one-on-one lunch with Speaker Boehner."

3. Next he pays a courtesy call on Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

4. Then he goes to the Senate and pays a courtesy call on Democratic leader Harry Reid, followed by a one-on-one meeting with Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

5. Monday evening he has dinner with Richard L. Trumka of the AFL-CIO.

6. Tuesday he has breakfast with Tom Donohue at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

7. Next he has coffee with John Engler, newly installed president of the Business Roundtable, and later another coffee with Mary Vermeer Andriga of the National Association of Manufacturers.

8. Tuesday lunch is with the Cabinet at the White House, where he says, "Our assignment is to keep the trash of government from the president and to make sure all our differences are ironed out before we take issues to him for final decisions."

9. Tuesday afternoon, he and the president meet with the entire White House staff, when he reports on his first two days on the job.


Chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party; chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1991

Bill Daley is an excellent choice to serve as President Obama's chief of staff. The most important thing he has to do is spend some serious time with the president and determine exactly what his administration wants to accomplish during the remainder of his term. Frankly, there are only six months left to save the Obama presidency, because if there is no significant improvement in performance in that short period, there will be no opportunity to fix things before the election.

It is important that at some point during this time, the president hears from a close adviser like his chief of staff that his problem is not communications but substance. The American public is unhappy with what it views to be a far-too-liberal agenda. Daley has to help the president focus on what voters really want right now - smaller government and less spending.

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