NPR logo White House Chief Of Staff Daley To Share Job With Predecessor

White House Chief Of Staff Daley To Share Job With Predecessor

White House Chief of Staff William Daley Charles Dharapak/AP hide caption

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Charles Dharapak/AP

White House Chief of Staff William Daley

Charles Dharapak/AP

Just because White House chief of staff Bill Daley will be offloading some of his duties to his predecessor Pete Rouse, that doesn't mean he's been demoted, President Obama's press secretary told journalists Tuesday.

Some journalists have characterized the move as a demotion since chiefs of staff historically have tended to consolidate power, not delegate it.

But Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, says Daley isn't actually losing power, despite appearances. He's merely sharing power for the sake of making the White House work better.

Here's a bit of Carney's exchange with White House reporters on the trip to Philadelphia Tuesday for an Obama event meant to highlight reforms in the Head Start program:

REPORTER: Jay, what can you tell us about the changes in the Chief of Staff's duties?

CARNEY: Well, a couple things. One, I think a little bit more is being made of this than in fact is happening. The chief of staff Bill Daley has asked, as part of his efforts to make the White House run as efficiently as possible, has asked Pete Rouse, counselor to the President, to help streamline and make more efficient and effective internal communications in the White House and to help with some of the day-to-day management of the place.

Bill Daley, as the chief of staff, retains obviously all of his authority and ultimate responsibility for the White House operations and White House staff.

REPORTER: Can you enumerate exactly what duties have transferred to Mr. Rouse?

CARNEY: Well, again, it's less about transferring duties than it is about adding responsibilities without subtracting any from anybody else. It's about making the White House as effective and efficient as possible.

And this is actually a process that's been in the works now for a number of weeks, even possibly a couple of months. And what Bill announced in one of our meetings yesterday morning was simply that, as most of you know or a lot of you know, "I've asked Pete to take on these additional responsibilities to help us function better." But it's mostly about internal communication, making sure that everybody has the information they need so we can serve the President as effectively as possible.

REPORTER: So was the President involved in making this decision?

CARNEY: Well, it's Bill Daley's decision. But obviously —

REPORTER: Was the President consulted?

CARNEY: I don't doubt that the Chief of Staff discussed this with the President.

As has been well reported, Daley has been frustrated in his efforts to fix some of the problems he inherited from Rouse who took over the chief of staff job from Rahm Emanuel who left the Obama administration to successfully run for mayor of Chicago.

A former senior official at JP Morgan Chase and a Clinton-era Commerce secretary, Daley's arrival at the White House was supposed to usher in better ties between the Obama administration and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce crowd.

But that hasn't worked out as well as was hoped. Meanwhile, there's been plenty of reporting that Daley didn't have a particularly good working relationship with lawmakers on either side of the aisle.

That he came from one of the nation's most famous Democratic families seemed not to have the persuasive power over congressional Democrats that Obama might have hoped.

And Daley's pro-business sentiments didn't do much to win agreement from congressional Republicans who may have shared similar corporate sympathies with the president's top aide but are fairly uniformly opposed to most of the Obama agenda.

The Wall Street Journal's Carol Lee provided the following assessment of Daley's tenure:

Mr. Daley made strides in his outreach to business, including leading a White House effort to ease government regulations and shepherding three free-trade deals through a divided Congress. But the relationship has fallen short of expectations. White House officials acknowledge even an emissary of Mr. Daley's caliber could go only so far. Mr. Obama's recent push to boost taxes on wealthy Americans has complicated that effort.

On the congressional front, one big problem has been a tense relationship between Mr. Daley and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), which soured during the budget negotiations this year, people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Daley angered Democrats by trying to cut side budget deals with Republicans. He stoked the tension recently by telling a columnist for the website Politico that "both Democrats and Republicans" have made it difficult for Mr. Obama to govern.

Mr. Reid was livid, and Mr. Daley had to call to smooth things over. "When I make a mistake or he thinks I've made a mistake, we talk," Mr. Daley said.