White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley Was Essentially Demoted

By
What Would Rahm Do?
What Would Rahm Do? Photo: Chip Somodevilla/2011 Getty Images

William Daley's role as chief of staff for Barack Obama has changed, he announced to his staff yesterday, with day-to-day management turned over to Pete Rouse, another senior aide for Obama, who served as interim chief of staff after Emanuel's departure. Daley's new role isn't quite defined, but will likely center around "managing relations with influential outsiders," The Wall Street Journal reports, while Rouse will be "the president's inside manager." For Daley, that certainly sounds like a demotion — "day-to-day management" of the White House is basically the chief of staff's job, and being stripped of those responsibilities without being fired is unprecedented. Early signs that Daley was in trouble can be traced to a couple of stories that appeared in October, one in the Huffington Post reporting that Daley's remote presence and disorganized style made Democrats miss Rahm Emanuel, of all people, and a surprisingly candid interview in which Daley blamed both Democrats and Republicans for the president's troubles.

"On the domestic side, both Democrats and Republicans have really made it very difficult for the president to be anything like a chief executive," Daley told Politico late last month. "This has led to a kind of frustration," he said, referring to Obama's first term as "ungodly," "brutal," and "very, very difficult." The Journal reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose relationship with Daley had been tense since the budget negotiations, was pissed about the remarks. "When I make a mistake or he thinks I've made a mistake, we talk," Daley said.

They'll probably do less talking in the future as Daley, an ex-JPMorgan exec and Clinton commerce secretary, is expected to hit the Washington social scene to build external relationships for the White House. According to some, dealing with Congress was never his strong suit, while Rahm was known to talk to some top lawmakers three or four times a day.

The fallout from the acrimonious debt-ceiling negotiations in August probably hurt Daley, too, since he was brought on in part to help broker deals with Republicans. Since then, the White House has moved towards drawing contrasts with Republicans as Obama tours the country promoting his jobs bill. As Ezra Klein notes, "when you're promising to orient much of the election around your support for financial reform and the Republican Party's opposition to Dodd–Frank, does it really make sense for Daley, an ex-JPMorgan Chase executive who was brought on partly to repair relationships with Wall Street, to lead the effort?"