At a White House staff meeting yesterday, chief of staff Bill Daley made a surprising announcement: his role in the administration going forward will be reduced, and veteran aide Pete Rouse will take over day-to-day management of the West Wing. The Wall Street Journal notes, “It is unusual for a White House chief of staff to relinquish part of the job.”
It’s unusual, but it is good news for progressives. There is no doubt that Daley’s hiring represented a tack to the right, and towards a more corporate-friendly approach, and this demotion could reflect at least a partial retreat by the White House from that approach.
Daley was a troubling hire for progressives from the start. Only weeks before taking the job, Daley wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post about Democratic defeats in the midterm elections. His solution: “Either we plot a more moderate, centrist course or risk electoral disaster not just in the upcoming midterms but in many elections to come.”
At his introduction to the press, President Obama noted that Daley would bring valuable business experience to the White House because he’s “led major corporations”—notably, Daley was a vice-chairman at too-big-to-fail bank JPMorgan Chase. The Chamber of Commerce lauded his hiring, while MoveOn and Public Citizen bashed it.
The results were exactly what everyone predicted: under Daley, the White House made deficit reduction a top priority, and infuriated liberals by offering repeated concessions to Republicans in order to achieve it. Democratic leaders in Congress weren’t fond of Daley, either: Senate majority leader Harry Reid was reportedly “livid” with Daley for cutting side deals with Republicans during the debt negotiations, and for telling Politico recently that “both Democrats and Republicans” were to blame for Obama’s governing troubles. That sounds like something straight out of a David Brooks column, but does not even approach the reality of Republican intransigence and Democratic over-compromise—something Daley must have known given his role in those very negotiations.
Daley’s touted affinity for business interests led to some disastrous executive branch decisions. In early September, the White House ordered the Environmental Protection Agency not to enforce stricter standards on smog emissions—even though the EPA itself called the current standards “legally indefensible.” During the deliberation process, Daley got personally involved in meetings with representatives from Business Roundtable, the Chamber of Commerce and other groups. His unique influence in that debate shifted the outcome, according to all involved: