As usual, August has been the cruelest month for President Barack Obama. From the stupid debt-ceiling debate to the even dumber jobs speech snafu, he has taken hit after hit after hit from both sides of the aisle with the press amplifying each negative message.
But underneath every one of these so-called gaffes, there is Bill Daley. It's clear to me that whatever I may have thought about Rahm Emanuel, he was simply better at what a Chief of Staff is supposed to do than Bill Daley can hope to be.
Jonathan Chait has a column in Sunday's New York Times that highlights how ineffective Daley really is, though that's not the primary focus.
This has been the summer that liberal discontent with Obama has finally crystallized. The frustration has been simmering for a while — through centrist appointments, bank bailouts and the defeat of the public option, to name a few examples. But it has taken the debt-ceiling standoff and the threat of a double-dip recession to create a leftist critique of the president that stuck.
If messaging is a part of the Chief of Staff's duties, and I believe it's one of the central parts, then Daley clearly fails on all counts. Every single issue is framed inside right-wing themes, from the decision to suspend new EPA standards to the debt-ceiling debate. There is no progressive message, not even a small bone offered up to progressives who might be able to swallow a short delay in implementation if there is some small sensible reason. Yet, time after time, Daley offers up those nuggets to the Chamber of Commerce, the Republican Party, and conservatives, presumably in the hope that some will be reasonable. There's a term for that. In some circles, some might call it insanity. I call it a failure to serve a wider constituency.
If a 30-year veteran of Congressional politics sees no hope of reasonableness, why can't Daley?
Even on the level of the mundane, there was no excuse for the ridiculous scheduling "error" to have happened, much less for it to get any traction, and that was, once again, all Bill Daley.
If Daley didn’t know that Wednesday, the day Congress returns from its five-week break, was also the night of the NBC/Poliltico-sponsored GOP debate at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California—moderated by NBC’s Brian Williams, and featuring, for the first time, Texas Gov. Rick Perry—he should have. Yes, it’s one debate of 20 to come, but the contretemps made the president look like he was mischievously, sneakily trying to steal his potential opponents’ thunder.
In an editorial entitled “Oh, Grow Up,” critical mostly of Boehner and Company, this paragraph stood out: “It’s possible that the White House failed to seek Mr. Boehner’s back-room agreement before making its formal request. That’s hard to believe, even from an administration that is maladroit politically, to put it kindly.” The Hill’s Sam Youngman made essentially the same point in his report: “The back-and-forth has left some Democrats in Washington worried that the White House is becoming a rudderless ship.”
Daley, the ship’s skipper, has made no public comment so far.
Exactly. It was stupid to try and intentionally step on their debate, and uncharacteristic of what President Obama has stood for in the past. He has always welcomed debate, not tried to squelch it. And if it wasn't intentional (I think it was), then it was stupid. Either way, it was a lose-lose proposition that opened the door wide for the left side of the aisle to be very angry because: a) it gave the appearance that the White House "caved"; and b) It left all of us feeling like Boehner and Co got a nice chance to be jerks at our expense. Again.
That slice of stupid was only over scheduling a speech. Why don't Republicans complain about Daley? Why should they? He's acted in their best interests over and over again. There's no doubt in my mind that the debt-ceiling debate would not have turned into such a debacle, nor would it have once again left Democrats -- centrist and liberal alike -- feeling like they'd once again been forced to give up everything to a bunch of terrorist hostage-takers, had Bill Daley bothered to actually craft a message that wasn't written by the right-wing establishment.
The video at the top of this post is a perfect example. Listen to Tom Donohue at the US Chamber of Commerce brag about how he's "like this" with Bill Daley:
CAVUTO: Finally, very quick, personally, I know you guys broke bread not too long ago. You are across the street from one another.
So, are you guys getting along? Is your association getting along, is Commerce getting along now with the president? How would you describe relations?
DONOHUE: I think relations are fine. We worked very closely with Bill Daley. We worked with the whole gang while they were trying to do the deficit and debt issue.
DONOHUE: We really encouraged everybody in the Congress that we couldn’t default. I think we would have put three European countries out of business.
I think we’re all going to work together to try and get a very serious program from the 12 apostles.
That exchange followed Donohue's announcement that the U.S. Chamber will be introducing their very own jobs plan which includes, among other things, tax repatriation (a terrible idea), and more domestic oil drilling. You know, I just don't want a White House Chief of Staff to be that buddy-buddy with one of the Riders of the Apocalypse. And how arrogant is it for a trade association to be unveiling *their* jobs plan? They may think they're in charge of this country, but we still have three branches of government they have to deal with, two of which would be involved in their so-called jobs plan.
I'm not exempting the President from this tirade. After all, he hired the guy. But as much as I support him and will continue to, I have no faith in his Chief of Staff, and think it's time for him to replace Daley with someone who is capable of crafting a stronger message and dealing with the right-wing idiots in Congress with a stronger hand. There was absolutely no reason for us to give up the advantage on Medicare that we had after Paul Ryan managed to lead Republicans right down the rabbit hole of destruction. The right wing was on the verge of self-destruction and instead of capitalizing on it, Daley's message seemed to affirm it. It would have been a good time for President Obama to have drawn a line. But as Chait notes:
And then, this summer, Obama let the G.O.P. hold the debt-ceiling vote hostage to extract spending cuts. I think he should have called the Republicans’ bluff and let them accept the risk of a financial meltdown. But the reason Obama chose to cut a deal is that calling their bluff might have resulted in catastrophe. And Obama made a point of back-loading the G.O.P.’s budget cuts so as not to contract the economy. He may have chosen wrongly, but he chose exactly the priorities liberals now insist he ignored — favoring economic recovery over long-term goals.
Maybe. But do we hear this message? No. Where is Daley out there on the Sunday shows, pushing back on the idea that in hostage situations, the reasonable guy in the room will try to save the hostage? He's nowhere? Instead, week after week is filled with Republican messages and right-wing memes.
With friends like Daley, who needs enemies? It's time for President Obama to admit that his strategy of trying to co-opt the right-wing with a pro-business Republican type like Daley was a mistake, ask for his resignation, and put someone in there who will at least manage to get some liberal messaging out of the White House. We don't have time to wait. The election may well hang on what Bill Daley's next failure is.