Obama Taps William Daley As Chief Of Staff

President Obama on Thursday announced his choice for his new chief of staff: former Commerce Secretary William Daley. The choice of a man with a corporate resume whose name is synonymous with bare-knuckle, big city politics says a lot about what President Obama expects to be dealing with in the next two years. For more, host Michele Norris talks to NPR's Mara Liasson.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Of all the appointments the president makes, none has more immediate effect on the administration's day-to-day success or failure than the White House chief of staff. And the choice of William Daley says a lot about what President Obama expects to be dealing with in the next two years.

NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson has spent the day absorbing the atmosphere at the White House, and she joins us now from there.

Mara, so what does tell us about what the president is expecting?

MARA LIASSON: It tells us that he wants to move to the center. It tells us he wants to reach out to the business community. As you heard, William Daley is an executive at JPMorgan Chase. That would make him one of those fat-cat investment bankers that the president once famously criticized.

He's also fresh blood. He's an outsider. The president has decided he needs some new perspectives. He's reached out to somebody who has a lot of experience, kind of a Howard Baker-type and a former Clinton hand, not unlike his new choice for budget director, Jack Lew.

So it shows you that the president wants to get ready to deal with the new reality of divided government and run for re-election at the same time, and he chose someone who's - can fit both of those needs.

NORRIS: An outsider with inside experience, and there's an interesting symmetry here, Mara, the president's first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, left to run for mayor of Chicago. Now, his successor's name is almost synonymous with that office, at least his last name, Daley. What's the meaning to be found in that?

LIASSON: Well, Chicago is the president's political touchstone. It's also a pretty good training for the rough and tumble politics in Washington. But it also tells you that even though William Daley is not really in the inner sanctum of Obama advisers - that's a very tightly-held, tiny little circle of people - he is in one of the inner most rings, you could say, of the Obama universe.

He's very close with David Axelrod, who's the president's top political adviser, who is about to leave the White House to go back to Chicago to set up the re-election effort. And William Daley, Bill Daley, is going to be able to coordinate with David Axelrod very well as the White House does something that's pretty unusual, which is run a re-election campaign not from Washington.

NORRIS: Hmm. It's clear that Rahm Emanuel really helped defined the first two years of this presidency with his leadership style. How will William Daley be different?

LIASSON: Well, you know, Rahm Emanuel's job was to legislate. I think Bill Daley's job will be to negotiate. Rahm Emanuel had deep, strong ties to the Democratic House leadership. He was once part of it. His job was to get Democrats on board since no Republicans were going to help -or very few Republicans were going to help President Obama pass his agenda.

Bill Daley's job is to reach across the aisle. He's also going to be a surrogate for the president. I think you're going to see him out in public a lot in a way that Rahm Emanuel wasn't.

One of the striking things about this administration is how few high-level surrogates the White House has had. President Obama has had to do it almost all by himself. But I think you're going to see Bill Daley out more in public.

NORRIS: We've heard a lot of rumors about this appointment. Now that it's official, what's been the reaction outside the White House?

LIASSON: Well, as you could expect, centrist, Democratic groups have responded with praise. The Chamber of Commerce, with which Bill Daley once worked, who also was one of the president's most powerful opponents, reacted with praise. Liberal groups have been disappointed and have criticized the decision. But Howard Dean, who's really a hero to liberals in the Democratic Party, thought it was a very smart move.

NORRIS: Beyond the chief of staff, we've been hearing about other big changes expected and an overall staff shakeup. What kinds of changes are ahead? What are we expecting?

LIASSON: Well, tomorrow, you're likely to hear that Gene Sperling, who's a Treasury Department official, also a former Clinton aide, is going to be made the head of the National Economic Council. He takes the place of Larry Summers, who went back to Harvard. I think that you'll also see David Plouffe. He's already been announced, but he will arrive at the White House next week to fill the job that David Axelrod has been doing. As I said, Axelrod will go back to Chicago.

And then, in one of the highest-profile decisions, at some point in the next few weeks, we should find out who's going to be the new press secretary. Robert Gibbs announced yesterday that he no longer is going to brief from the podium. He's going to the private sector to be a paid consultant to the Obama campaign.

And they haven't decided yet who the new press secretary will be. They've widened the search. It's not just inside the White House. They're looking outside. So this is all part of the president revamping his operation to deal with divided government and to get ready for re-election.

NORRIS: Always good to talk to you, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you, Michele.

NORRIS: That's NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

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