In an unusual move for a White House chief of staff, William M. Daley has relinquished his day-to-day management roles as Obama’s top aide after 10 months in the position. According to The Wall Street Journal, Daley’s tense relations with both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are behind his role change. Sources familiar with the matter said Daley and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid butted heads during the debt-ceiling debacle. He reportedly angered other Democrats in Congress by trying to cut deals on the side with congressional Republicans. Prior to the formal announcement on Monday, Daley said in an interview last week that he has been doing more on a day-to-day basis since the budget crisis. “The president challenged us all to pick up our game after the summer,” he said. President Obama approved the role change, which will see Pete Rouse take over for Daley, in an attempt to smooth over relations in his administration as he prepares his reelection campaign, sources said.
I blame Daley for much of the muddled messaging and perception that Wall Street is in control of this White House. But mostly, I blame him for managing to yank defeat out of the jaws of victory more than once, via messaging and via backchannel discussions he had no business having. Before I'm eviscerated for this statement, I can think of at least three recent ways he completely contradicted what the President was trying to do. First, just as the OWS movement was reaching a tipping point and their message was a close parallel to the President's newly-discovered populist voice, Daley comes out with this indictment:
"I don't know if it's helpful," he said. "I wouldn't characterize it that way. Look it: People express their opinions. In the new social network world, they can do it pretty effectively outside the normal way, historically, people have done it. So whether it's helpful to us, or helpful for people to understand in the political system that there are a lot of people out there concerned about the economy -- I know the focus is on Wall Street, but it's a broader discussion that we're having." He pointed to Sam Stein, who'd been asking about supercommittee negotiations. "Part of the thing here, about a balanced approach -- I think people want to see fairness in the system."
What an idiotic thing to say. You have President Obama out there hammering a jobs bill and saying people need jobs, they can't afford to wait. He's drawing a distinction between the top 1% and the rest of us, right in line with the OccupyWallStreet protesters, and the Chief of Staff says he's not sure it's helpful? Right out of the mouth of Wall Street itself.
There was the amazing, stupid, unnecessary scheduling snafu with regard to the President's job speech, which also leads straight back to Daley.
The limits of Mr. Daley's relationship with Mr. Boehner spilled into view in September, when the chief of staff thought he had secured a date for Mr. Obama to address a joint session of Congress. Mr. Boehner publicly rejected the White House's request because it conflicted with a GOP presidential primary debate. Mr. Obama vented to his staff, asking how they didn't foresee that outcome.
It was around that time that internal discussions began about how to make the best use of Mr. Daley's skills, people familiar with the discussions said.
So the jobs speech was postponed until the following day and the Republicans got a free pass to behave as disrespectfully as they wanted. Yeah, that was one of the high points of Daley's management.
Finally, there was the ongoing frustration between Congressional Democrats and the White House. It really picked up after Daley took over operations. Remember Harry Reid being furious about the debt ceiling debacle, claiming no one at the White House had even talked to him about negotiations? Well, whose job would that have been?
Wall Street Journal:
On the congressional front, one big problem has been a tense relationship between Mr. Daley and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), which soured during the budget negotiations this year, people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Daley angered Democrats by trying to cut side budget deals with Republicans. He stoked the tension recently by telling a columnist for the website Politico that "both Democrats and Republicans" have made it difficult for Mr. Obama to govern.
Mr. Reid was livid, and Mr. Daley had to call to smooth things over. "When I make a mistake or he thinks I've made a mistake, we talk," Mr. Daley said.
Here's the part of that Politico interview that made me see six shades of red:
But good times — well, better times — are possible before November 2012, Daley says. And all President Obama has to do to achieve this is make a startling end run around not just the Republicans but also the Democrats, in Congress.
All he has to do, Daley says, is operate in domestic affairs with the same speed, power and independence that he possesses in foreign and military affairs.
Seriously. He really said that and it was then that I knew he didn't have a clue how Congress worked. Maybe a review of the separation of powers in the Constitution would have helped, but I doubt it. Evidently Mr. Daley had difficulty understanding the difference between being Commander-in-Chief of the military and having to negotiate with a completely crazy and irrational House and stymied Senate.
As far as I'm concerned, we can say adios to Bill Daley entirely without shedding a single tear, but if he's not completely gone from the White House, at least maybe he can be kept away from anything that breaks, politically or otherwise.
Beyond what I think, however, it seems to me that it signals an understanding of more than Daley's shortcomings. As long as Daley was seen as the guy running things, it powered a larger narrative suggesting that Wall Street also runs things at the White House. By taking Daley out of the day-to-day operations that narrative diminishes. I'd like to see it die entirely by taking him out of the White House altogether, but I'll accept getting him away from Congress and policymaking as a start.