Rahm Emanuel is off running for mayor of Chicago, but his ghost will soon be making a return to the White House in the form of fellow Chicagoan Bill Daley, whom President Obama is naming as Rahm’s replacement today. The post is currently filled by low-key Obama aide Pete Rouse.
Daley, brother of outgoing Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, was commerce secretary under Bill Clinton, the chief architect of NAFTA, chairman of Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, a top adviser/fundraiser for the Obama campaign and, most recently, Midwest chairman of JP Morgan Chase. He shares the corporate centrism of Emanuel and, when it comes to economic issues, may be worse. AFL-CIO head John Sweeney once said that Daley stood “squarely on the opposite side of working families.”
Daley lobbied for telecommunications giant SBC, publicly chided the Obama administration for pursuing healthcare reform (he serves on the board of drugmaker Merck), advised the Chamber of Commerce on Wall Street regulation (they wanted less of it) and reportedly urged Obama’s team to drop the most popular provision of the financial reform bill—the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. When Daley joined the board of the corporate-aligned Democratic group Third Way in July 2010, board chairman John Vogelstein said that Daley’s tasks would include “reforming entitlements”—a clever code word for cutting Social Security and Medicare. Yet despite all this, Obama is making Daley the focal point of his White House in year three. Didn’t the president learn anything from Rahm’s disastrous tenure at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?
This week Politico reported that Republican House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa brazenly asked over 150 companies and trade associations to specify which regulations and consumer protections they’d like to gut in the new Congress. It was precisely the type of story Democrats should pounce on to paint the GOP as a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate American. Instead, the Obama administration is close to appointing a JP Morgan exec to burnish its “pro-business” credentials. Talk about mixed messaging!
In fact, the Obama administration has tried its damndest to plot the “moderate, centrist course” that Daley accuses them of forsaking—abandoning the public option in healthcare reform, loading up the stimulus with tax cuts, extending the Bush tax cuts, escalating the war in Afghanistan and stepping away from potentially divisive fights over immigration reform and cap and trade. Indeed, it’s amazing that the administration doesn’t get more credit from the business community for saving the banks, rescuing the auto industry, stabilizing the economy and preventing another Great Depression. Americans want jobs and relief from the federal government and Obama administration, not another banker running the show.
–Ari Berman is the author of Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics