NPR logo Will Obama Purge White House Aides? Unlikely

Will Obama Purge White House Aides? Unlikely

White House seniors aides Bill Daley and Valerie Jarrett exit Marine One, Sept. 5, 2011. Charles Dharapak/AP hide caption

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Charles Dharapak/AP

White House seniors aides Bill Daley and Valerie Jarrett exit Marine One, Sept. 5, 2011.

Charles Dharapak/AP

Some nervous Democrats are looking for something, anything from President Obama that might turn around his and, by extension, their political fortunes, dragged down by widespread voter dissatisfaction with the nation's economic and political direction.

James Carville, the political strategist, reflected the desperate mood when he called this week for President Obama to cashier some aides.

One senior aide drew particular attention from anonymous Democrats quoted in stories in Politico and the Huffington Post — White House chief of staff William Daley.

The former JP Morgan executive and Clinton administration Commerce secretary was criticized for the kinds of things White House chiefs of staffs traditionally get dinged for: tightly restricting access to the president and to important staff meetings, having poor relations with the president's party in Congress or being too friendly with the opposition, and not having a winning strategy.

Daley is no stranger to taking the heat for a president in trouble. Just after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke into public view in 1998, the Chicagoan was one of the cabinet secretaries who went out to face reporters to defend President Bill Clinton at a time when the question was whether that president would be forced to resign.

Considering that experience, the current situation must not seem nearly so bad.

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary who also has occasionally attracted criticism for alleged failings to the president, indicated Friday that Daley, who is above him in the pecking order, was doing an outstanding job.

MR. CARNEY: Bill Daley is an excellent chief of staff. He is a
fantastic leader both internally and eternally in advancing the
president's policy goals. He brings enormous experience to the job.
And I would simply say that he took over that job at a pretty critical
and remarkable time, if you think about the change that came with the midterm elections, the — I believe he started, or hadn't even started yet, but was beginning to enter the office when the shootings happened in Tucson, and then everything that has gone since.

He has — he has had to — he is the chief of staff for this president at a time of divided government when obviously we have had to deal, as you have chronicled and your colleagues have chronicled, with divided leadership in — on Capitol Hill. And he has handled those significant responsibilities with great skill and elan.

As far as a White House purge of aides to as a signal from the president that he was shaking things up in order to get new ideas or chart a new policy, that seems fairly remote.

After such a shake-up, the government would still be divided. Obama would still be facing a GOP-led House hostile to him and a Senate minority whose leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), has said his stated goal is to limit the president to one term.

Furthermore, Obama is a steady-as-you-go kind of leader. He's known for not having wide emotional swings, not getting too up or too down, regardless of what the outside world is doing. Combine that with his tendency to lean on a small inner circle of trusted advisers and a purge seems even more unlikely.