So it appears that Bill Daley will be the new Chief of Staff to President Obama. Another corporatist centrist. I guess if Obama decides what agenda to follow as Steve Benen argues, then the choice might not really matter all that much:
The banker background isn't encouraging, but I could find it relatively easy to overlook this. By all accounts, Daley enjoys the support and respect of those who've worked with him, and has proven himself as an excellent manager. Those are good qualities to have in this job.
But it's his political instincts that rankle. Daley has opposed some of the same Obama policy achievements I think are worth supporting, and Daley's belief that the mainstream Democratic agenda is too liberal strikes me as absurd.
The flipside, though, is that I'm not sure just how much this matters. Rahm Emanuel wasn't exactly a choice to get excited about, and his ideological instincts weren't quite reliable, either. Indeed, it's an open secret that Emanuel pleaded with Obama to forget about health care reform in 2009, insisting that the political investment wasn't worth the reward.
And as we know, the president ignored him, and pursued the priorities he wanted to pursue. Emanuel's instincts didn't get in the way of the best two years of progressive policymaking since LBJ.
That's why I'm not worked up either way about the Daley selection. He wouldn't have been my pick -- Obama neglected to ask me for my input again -- but as far as I can tell, this isn't a White House in which the chief of staff necessarily sets the agenda. That's the president's job.
But it's the centrist pols who have hurt the Obama administration the most. It doesn't matter how far right Obama goes, he'll always be painted as a socialist Kenyan anti-American President by the right. By not making legislation actually more progressive, Obama has lost major support from his base. When will he start showing some love to the base he needs? He could have hired a progressive Chief of Staff and it would have helped him, but maybe that's what the President wants. I heard Charley Cook tell Andrea Mitchell that the left is going to be angry for the next few years. Ya think?
As many have already pointed out, Daley repeatedly criticized Obama's agenda as too left-wing. For instance, he said:
"They miscalculated on health care. The election of '08 sent a message that after 30 years of center-right governing, we had moved to center left -- not left."
Now that Daley has been picked, there will be a fair amount of commentary to the effect that Obama has wisely received this message and is in the midst of a course correction. But here's the thing: Daley is wrong. Obama didn't govern from the "left." And as it happens, he did govern from the "center left."
This has all been argued already at length by others, but here goes. Obama's approach to the crises he inherited were by any sane measure mostly moderate and reasonable. The stimulus was smaller and less ambitious than most liberals wanted. The health care plan he adopted jettisoned the most liberal elements and embraced solutions once championed by Republicans. The Wall Street reform bill was the most sweeping overhaul of financial regulations in generations, but as observers across the spectrum have noted, it wasn't fundamentally transformative. Obama is winding down the Iraq War, but he escalated in Afghanistan. And he has embraced some controversial Bush policies on civil liberties and terrorism. And so on.
Digby reminded me of Recount:
The film has already caused intra-party squabbling, not surprisingly. Some prominent Democrats have championed the film in full-page HBO ads. Others assert that it portrays key players in the George W. Bush versus Al Gore showdown, especially Gore adviser and former Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Gore campaign chairman William Daley (brother of Mayor Richard M. Daley), in an inaccurate and unflattering light.
Daley understood that before the campaign hit Florida they needed to set the tone early. Daley and Eskew decided the campaign tone would be over and they would take a statesmanlike and not confrontational tone. They then decided to bring on former secretary of state Warren Christopher to join the fight in Florida.
Danny Strong, the actor ("Buffy," "Gilmore Girls") who wrote "Recount," told the New York Times recently that, according to his research, Christopher and Daley "wanted to concede [the election] from Day 1," a view both men strongly dispute in the same piece.
Will Daley be a fighter or a conceder?