Wanted: new chief of staff to run the White House – and get on with Obama

 

On the cusp of what promises to be a tough re-election year, Barack Obama yesterday confirmed his most senior aide, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, is stepping down early after a relatively brief, but often scratchy, 12 month in the post.

Mr Daley, who like Mr Obama calls Chicago home and is the brother and son of two legendary mayors of that city, was bought in just over a year ago to replace Rahm Emanuel, who himself relinquished the job shortly before the midterm congressional elections of 2010 that saw Democrats and the President take a beating. It is Mr Emanuel, of course, who now occupies the mayor's office in the Windy City.

Internal staff dramas of any kind are anathema to Mr Obama who moved without delay to appoint Jack Lew, the serving budget director in the White House, as his new Chief of Staff. A native of New York and veteran of both the west wing and the US State Department, Mr Lew has in large supply something that seemingly eluded Mr Daley: good relationships with top leaders from both parties on Capitol Hill.

That Mr Daley was somehow a poor fit in the presidential team was partially put on display last year when he surrendered some of his day-to-day duties to another long-standing Obama aide, Peter Rouse. At the time, however, he was still telling colleagues he would stay until beyond the coming elections. Why the sudden acceleration of his exit? No one last night could reliably say. Sources close to Mr Daley merely said talks with his family over Christmas precipitated his decision.

Part of his apparent appeal to Mr Obama was his history in private business. That he is out of touch with the corporate world or even hostile to it is a charge that the President still cannot shake. But it may have been Mr Daley's difficulties reaching out to Congress that made his staying impossible.

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