White House Chief of Staff William Daley Gets Demoted


White House Chief of Staff William Daley is having his “portfolio reconfigured,” according to the Wall Street Journal:

William M. Daley was hired to help resuscitate Barack Obama’s presidency after deep Democratic losses in 2010. Ten months into his tenure as chief of staff, Mr. Daley’s core responsibilities are shifting, following White House missteps in the debt-ceiling fight and in its relations with Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

On Monday, Mr. Daley turned over day-to-day management of the West Wing to Pete Rouse, a veteran aide to President Obama, according to several people familiar with the matter. It is unusual for a White House chief of staff to relinquish part of the job.

A senior White House official who attended Monday’s staff meeting where Mr. Daley made the announcement said that his new role has not yet been fully defined. But in recent weeks, Mr. Daley has focused more on managing relations with influential outsiders.

The recalibration of Mr. Daley’s portfolio, agreed to by Mr. Obama, is designed to smooth any kinks in the president’s team as it braces for the overlapping demands of governing while campaigning for re-election, people familiar with the matter said. The West Wing is preparing for budget battles with Congress and is seeking to use its executive powers more extensively.

(Emphases mine.)  So the White House is getting ready to put more emphasis on campaigning over governing?  Compared to what they’ve already been doing, including endless fundraisers and phony “jobs bills” designed for no other purpose than giving Obama a tub to thump during the 2012 campaign?  The mind reels.  I’m not sure how Obama could increase the emphasis on campaigning, short of launching his own reality show.

Of course, the White House is not portraying this as a “demotion,” and it theory it doesn’t have to be.  Rouse could be handling all the boring stuff back at the ranch, while Daley gets to go on crazy adventures across the fruited plain.  However, the Journal says “the new set-up effectively makes Mr. Rouse the president’s inside manager and Mr. Daley his ambassador, roles that appear to better suit both men’s talents,” which implies a significant reduction in Daley’s status.

It seems, however, that Daley’s performance has not been winning rave reviews, least of all from congressional Democrats.  He gave an interview to Politico, right before it became a full-time clearinghouse for anonymous accusations against Herman Cain, in which he “unplugged” himself and observed, “On the domestic side, both Democrats and Republicans have really made it very difficult for the president to be anything like a chief executive.  This has led to a kind of frustration.”

This ruffled many feathers, because while it’s consistent with Obama’s “We Can’t Wait” strategy of imposing a soft dictatorship outside the bounds of Congress, it’s a bit too early to be “triangulating” and putting an ounce of blame on Democrats for the ostensibly dreadful state of Congress.  That’s a narrative that won’t come into play until Fall 2012, if the President’s poll numbers are bad enough.  (By the way, does anyone remember when liberals used to shriek about the horrors of the “unitary executive?”)

Interestingly, Politico interviewer Roger Simon noted in a follow-up to Daley’s controversial remarks that Daley predicted an even shorter tenure for himself:  “I said to my wife when we got here — and we had great press when we got here- I said: ‘Six months, that’s about how long, then they’ll kick the s*** out of us.’  So I got nine months out of it. That’s pretty good.”  At least he’s taking it well.

The Daily Caller succinctly notes that Daley wasn’t winning high marks from Democrats even before he got low with Roger Simon:

Congressional Democrats had criticized Daley, a former commerce secretary under President Clinton, for what some described as his imperfect understanding of the legislative branch, and his tense relationship with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. This stood in marked contrast to his predecessor, Rahm Emanuel, a former Democratic congressman who is now Mayor of Chicago.

“Rahm Emanuel was not only a creature of the House, he knew many of the senators,” Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin told The Huffington Post in September. “Bill Daley does not have that depth of relationship coming in.”

One senior Democratic aide was more blunt, saying that the party’s congressional leadership had “basically come to the conclusion that he’s not up to the job and doesn’t really get how Congress works. At all.”

 In fairness to Daley, nobody else understands how Congress works, either – least of all Harry Reid, whose procedural blunders include a desperate eleventh-hour attempt to rewrite the rules of the Senate to avoid a vote on Obama’s “jobs bill.”

The New York Times reveals another possibility for the Daley portfolio reconfiguration, in the course of laying out his resume:

A banker with deep connections on Wall Street and in Democratic politics, Mr. Daley was recruited by Mr. Obama last fall to smooth relations with the business world. But after the administration’s failure to strike a deficit-reduction deal with the House speaker, John A. Boehner, Mr. Daley found that his deal-making skills were of less use.

Officials said the shift was designed to better coordinate the work of the White House staff, and it came at Mr. Daley’s request.

Hmmmm.  You don’t suppose Obama suddenly became nervous about having a well-connected Wall Street banker as his chief of staff going into the 2012 elections, do you?