January 6th, 2011
01:06 PM ET
President Obama will name former Clinton Commerce Secretary William Daley his new chief of staff, according to three senior administration officials, as a dramatic reshuffling of the White House staff kicks into high gear.
The officials said Obama will also elevate interim chief of staff Pete Rouse, who had been serving as a senior adviser before replacing Rahm Emanuel on a temporary basis, to the role of counselor to the president. Obama himself will make the announcements official at 2:30pm ET at the White House.
The moves come just one day after White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs revealed that he will be stepping down in a few weeks. His exit will come after the State of the Union Address later this month, around the same time that senior adviser David Axelrod departs as well, in what Gibbs himself a "major retooling" of a White House dealing now with a closely divided Congress.
By tapping Daley, Obama is showing signs that he is reaching for help from Clinton administration veterans who had to dig out of the last major Democratic shellacking in the 1994 election. Senior officials expect that on Friday Obama will name Gene Sperling, another Clinton veteran who is currently working at the Treasury Department, to replace Larry Summers as the chair of the National Economic Council at the White House.
While then-President Bill Clinton lost control of both chambers of Congress to Republicans that time, he tacked to the center and was able to score major legislative victories and easily win re-election in 1996, and many Democrats are rejoicing at Daley's selection now.
"Perfect for the job," said Steve Elmendorf, a lobbyist who served as chief of staff to then-House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt in the Clinton and Bush years. "He has an impressive combination of stature and substance and political smarts."
Daley, who has most recently served as Midwest director of JP Morgan Chase, is also expect to help patch up Obama's frosty relations with the business community after nasty battles over health care reform, taxes and government regulations.
In fact, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue, who has signaled his willingness for a detente by welcoming Obama to a Feb. 7 speech at the business organization's headquarters, immediately hailed the choice of Daley. And Chamber officials have privately signaled that Daley's pick could mean more tax deals like the one Obama forged with Republicans in late December.
"This is a strong appointment," said Donohue. "Bill Daley is a man of stature and extraordinary experience in government, business, trade negotiations, and global affairs. 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.
" Indeed, some liberals are suspicious of Daley's close ties to the business community and are concerned that his appointment signals a sharp shift to the center, and a more friendly approach to Wall Street, by Obama in the next two years of his term.
"This was a real mistake by the White House," said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. "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.
" Back in July of last year, Daley was appointed to the board of trustees of Third Way, a major group that tries to steer the Democratic Party's agenda to the middle.
Daley made some headlines just about one year ago when he wrote a blistering op-ed in The Washington Post, urging Obama and the rest of the party to correct course and risk big losses in the 2010 midterms and beyond.
"Either we plot a more moderate, centrist course or risk electoral disaster not just in the upcoming midterms but in many elections to come," Daley wrote in the Dec. 24, 2009 op-ed.
Of course, Democrats did lose control of the House and several seats in the Senate in those midterms. But Daley made clear in his op-ed that even if Democrats did poorly in the election, there was a path to redemption in 2012 and beyond.
"Democrats are not doomed to return to the wilderness," Daley wrote nearly a year ago. "The question is whether the party is prepared to listen carefully to what the American public is saying. Voters are not re-embracing conservative ideology, nor are they falling back in love with the Republican brand. If anything, the Democrats' salvation may lie in the fact that Republicans seem even more hell-bent on allowing their radical wing to drag the party away from the center.
" Daley added, "All that is required for the Democratic Party to recover its political footing is to acknowledge that the agenda of the party's most liberal supporters has not won the support of a majority of Americans - and, based on that recognition, to steer a more moderate course on the key issues of the day, from health care to the economy to the environment to Afghanistan."