- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 6, 2011

Moderate Democrats and the business community on Thursday hailed President Obama’s choice of banking executive William Daley as his next chief of staff while some progressive activists balked at the return of a centrist Washington veteran whom they warned would alienate Mr. Obama’s left flank ahead of 2012.

In a brief East Room announcement, Mr. Obama described Mr. Daley, who served as commerce secretary under President Clinton, as “an experienced public servant, a devoted patriot.”

“Few Americans can boast the breadth of experience that Bill brings to this job,” Mr. Obama said. “He’s led major corporations. He possesses a deep understanding of how jobs are created and how to grow our economy.”

Mr. Daley replaces Pete Rouse, a senior adviser who temporarily stepped in as Mr. Obama’s top aide after Rahm Emanuel departed the West Wing last fall to pursue a bid for the mayor of Chicago. Like much of Mr. Obama’s inner circle, Mr. Daley has strong ties to the Windy City as the brother of outgoing Chicago mayor, Richard Daley.


The move is part of an ongoing White House staff shake-up as Mr. Obama reaches the halfway point of his first term and deals with his party’s diminished power after Novembers congressional elections. Just on Wednesday, Mr. Obama’s longtime spokesman, press secretary Robert Gibbs, announced he would step down in early February to become an outside political adviser.

As an executive at JP Morgan Chase, Mr. Daley’s selection seemed to shore up Mr. Obama’s good faith among members of the business community, many of whom panned the marquee legislative accomplishments of his first two years.

Bill Daley is a man of stature and extraordinary experience in government, business, trade negotiations and global affairs,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “He’s an accomplished manager and strong leader. We look forward to working with him to accelerate our recovery, grow the economy, create jobs and tackle America’s global challenges.”

Mr. Donohue’s praise is a further signal that previously icy relations between Mr. Obama and the nation’s largest business lobby - which spent millions to defeat Mr. Obama’s party at the polls in November - may be thawing. Mr. Obama is set to address the Chamber personally on Feb. 7.

Centrist Democrats welcomed Mr. Daley’s appointment. Jonathan Cowan, president of Third Way, a moderate Democratic think tank, said the move sends a “clear signal that [Mr. Obama] intends to govern and campaign from the center over the next two years.”

Of course, the same business ties touted by Mr. Daley’s supporters are a source of ammunition for his critics on the left.

“This was a real mistake by the White House,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has criticized the White House for giving in too easily on liberal priorities like a government-run health care option and letting tax cuts for the wealthy expire.

Bill Daley consistently urges the Democratic Party to pursue a corporate agenda that alienates both independent and Democratic voters. If President Obama listens to that kind of political advice from Bill Daley, Democrats will suffer a disastrous 2012.”

Likewise, Public Citizen blasted Mr. Obama for picking someone from Wall Street even as he and other Democrats have blamed Wall Street excesses for causing the financial crisis.

“Why in the world is President Barack Obama selecting as his chief of staff a person who comes from the very Wall Street that wrecked the economy and who is an ardent supporter of the job-offshoring, NAFTA-style trade agreements that have hollowed out the industrial heartland?” said Robert Weissman, the group’s president.

In addition to tapping a replacement for Mr. Gibbs, Mr. Obama has yet to appoint a successor to Lawrence Summers, who resigned as head of his National Economic Council in December. He’s reportedly decided on Gene Sperling, an adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and another Clinton White House veteran.