Power Centers

William Daley Considered For White House Post

William M. Daley. i i

hide captionWilliam M. Daley.

Alex Wong/Getty Images
William M. Daley.

William M. Daley.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

One of the least surprising pieces of news from the White House in these still early days of 2011 has to be that William Daley is being considered for a top administration role.

It would be more surprising, really, if he weren't being considered.

Daley, 62, the younger brother of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and son of the legendary Mayor Richard J. Daley, has for years been something of an eminence grise in the national Democratic Party.

On Monday Bloomberg News first reported that the president and senior staff are considering Daley to takeover the chief of staff's post from Peter Rouse who has held the position since the Rahm Emanuel left to run for Chicago mayor.

If Daley, a long-time friend of Emanuel's, does become the chief of staff, it would mean another Midwesterner from the pragmatic school of Chicago politics would have a top position in the Obama White House filled with such people.

They include senior advisors Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod, the latter being the president's political strategist who is headed back to Chicago himself.

Easy-going and with a wry, often self-effacing sense of humor, Daley was a Commerce Secretary in the Clinton cabinet. Since then, he has been a top official at J.P. Morgan Chase.

Thus, Daley has extensive contacts in the business and financial communities which could only help a president trying to repair relations with corporate chieftain types.

Unabashedly pro-business and with a political pedigree that still commands respect from professional politicians of both parties, Daley would likely be one of the strongest envoys Obama could send to negotiate with House Republicans.

But giving Daley a top post in his White House would also make it easier for some of the president's opponents to revive attacks from the 2008 campaign on Obama and his team as operatives of the Chicago Machine trying to bring their brand of ends-justifies-means politics to Washington.

That's kind of like accusing someone of sending crude oil to Saudi Arabia but there it is.

That attack didn't gain much traction during the 2008 campaign but that doesn't mean you won't hear it again if Daley gets the call.

But Daley also would help the president continue to put daylight between himself and the Democratic Party's liberal base. For instance, Daley was one of President Bill Clinton's top lobbyist for the North American Free Trade Pact.

That didn't exactly endear the Chicagoan with organized labor. So his naming would send an unambiguous message that the president planned to stay as far away as possible in the Democratic party from liberal orthodoxy.

More evidence of Daley's hard-nosed, pragmatic streak is what Daley told New York Times reporter Peter Baker in a lengthy piece on Emanuel and Obama's presidency from last March.

“They miscalculated on health care,” Daley, the former commerce secretary, told me. “The election of ’08 sent a message that after 30 years of center-right governing, we had moved to center left — not left.”

One more thing. Daley has been close to a number of high-profile political campaigns, including his brother's mayoral campaigns and as as chairman of Vice President Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign.

So Daley would be well-poised to run the White House operations with a very keen political weather-eye for how actions within the administration would impact the president's re-election chances.

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