On William Daley, the Next White House Chief of Staff

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on January 6, 2011

William Daley is a very smart, very well-connected, savvy political player, who will make an effective Chief of Staff. Doubtless, he will help bridge some of the divide between President Obama and the business community, and will help the White House reach out to the independents it has lost. This was a good pick on President Obama’s part.

However, it is worth noting that at the end of the day, any decision on the part of the business community, or independents to reciprocate rapprochement efforts on the part of the White House will depend primarily on the conduct of President Obama in office. To the extent that the President is willing to work hand-in-glove with William Daley’s more centrist inclinations–and there is reason to believe that he is–the White House’s outreach programs will be successful. But if the President continues to try to antagonize the business community and independents by persisting in efforts to push for left-of-center policy fixes, all of the Daleys in the world won’t be enough to get this Administration to recapture the center, and push a Republican challenger out of the mainstream in time for 2012.

On this issue, it is worth noting Ezra Klein’s post, to think about how the Left will react to Daley’s appointment:

Imagine I told you that one of the candidates President Obama is considering for chief of staff opposed the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, opposed doing health-care reform and led the Chamber of Commerce’s effort to loosen the post-Enron regulations on the accounting and auditing professions. His major qualification for the job is that he’s extremely well liked by the business community, in part because he routinely advocates for their interests and in part because he’s a top executive at J.P. Morgan. His theory of politics is that the Democratic Party has become too liberal and needs to tack right. Last year, he doubled down on that argument by joining the board of Third Way.

Now imagine I told you that one of the candidates President Obama is considering for chief of staff has been endorsed by Howard Dean as a “huge plus” for the Obama administration and previously chaired Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign. Dean, of course, was the great liberal hope in 2004, and has been a key voice for progressives ever since. Gore’s 2000 campaign was a notably populist effort, in tone if not in content.

Now imagine I told you they were the same guy.

That’s interesting as far as it goes, but Klein needs to face up to the fact that the first portrayal of Daley is the one that the Left will latch onto, at least initially, in judging whether Daley is a good pick. If Daley helps President Obama recover politically, much of the Democratic party will forgive him his purported Third Way tendencies, though many in the Left will still grumble. But at least initially, the Left will react to Daley’s appointment with suspicion (at best), or with outright hostility.

And why not? In many ways, he is everything Barack Obama ran against in 2008.

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