Last night’s report from The Wall Street Journal that White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley was giving up most of his portfolio in the latest re-shuffling of administration staff came as a shock. But Daley’s record in the post hardly made it a surprise.
Daley had only been in the job since January, and his demotion speaks to the failure of President Barack Obama and his team to recover from the battles over the stimulus, health care reform, and Dodd-Frank — and the tenure of the controversial Rahm Emanuel.
The former JP Morgan banker was supposed to smooth over the White House’s relationship with the business community and a disgruntled Congress, and end two years of internal drama under Emanuel. But on all counts he appears to have failed.
But the White House no longer needs the support of business, as Obama runs on his record of financial regulatory reform and takes up a populist position. Daley kicked sand in the eyes of congressional Democrats when he compared them to Republicans in slowing the president’s agenda. And internally, Daley has alienated staffers — perhaps even more so than the feared Rhambo.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tried to downplay the changes on Tuesday, saying “a little bit more is being made of this than is in fact happening,” adding that the shift in responsibilities has been planned for weeks.
He added that “Bill Daley is the chief of staff,” and “retains responsibility.” Pete Rouse is just “adding responsibilities without subtracting any from anybody else,” including Daley, Carney said.
But the shift in responsibilities is a sign that Obama has reached the first stage of recovery — admitting he has a problem.
Selecting Rouse to take up day-to-day management is in many ways the perfect choice given his strong ties to Congress, but also his unquestionable organizational skills. Rouse led the internal review that told Obama he was in trouble in 2010 with Rahm and Health Care reform threatening to scuttle his presidency. He’s also his best hope for saving it before next November.
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