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Posted at 12:52 PM ET, 01/ 6/2011

Bill Daley: Is it about competence or ideology?

By E.J. Dionne

The naming of Chicago's William Daley as President Obama's new chief of staff immediately drew an ideological response, with centrist, more conservative Democrats shouting "Halleluiah!" and progressives reacting a bit grumpily.

Within minutes of the announcement, I had heard from both sides. Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee declared the Daley choice "a real mistake by the White House," and continued: "Bill Daley consistently urges the Democratic Party to pursue a corporate agenda that alienates both Independent and Democratic voters. If President Obama listens to that kind of political advice from Bill Daley, Democrats will suffer a disastrous 2012."

Twenty minutes later, in came a statement from Jon Cowan, president of Third Way, a middle-of-the-road Democratic group. He called Obama's choice "brilliant," noting that Daley is a member of Third Way's board. "His selection," Cowan said, "sends a clear signal that he intends to govern and campaign from the center over the next two years."

Both Green and Cowan could be right that this is an ideological signal. But I have a feeling -- to follow Mike Dukakis's old campaign line from 1988 -- that this may be as much about competence as ideology and reflects Obama's desire to have someone at the top who is closely plugged in to both Washington and business power players. Daley brings a lot of D.C. experience with him, and that will matter over the next two years. And a lot of Democrats from different parts of the party trust the guy, including Howard Dean (not exactly your right-wing corporate Democrat), who waxed enthusiastic about Daley last night on Keith Olbermann's MSNBC show.

As for ideology, here's the question: Is the choice of Daley a sign that Obama will pursue a more conservative, pro-business agenda, the suspicion of both Cowan and Green from their different points of view? Or will Daley's business ties, in reassuring the financial and CEO world, actually give Obama more room to pursue progressive policies? With the often protean Obama, you can almost guarantee that it's some mix of both.

By E.J. Dionne  | January 6, 2011; 12:52 PM ET
Categories:  Dionne  | Tags:  E.J. Dionne  
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Comments

Halleluiah! We have another crook in the White House.

Obama is the most corrupt president in the history of the US, and he names the brother of the most corrupt mayor in the country as his chief of Staff. What else would you expect, someone with integrity in the job?

Posted by: mike85 | January 6, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Dionne is now sugesting that competence be a job requirement? Are you trying to talk your way into retirement, EJ?

Oh, and you gotta love a member of a legendarily corrupt family joining this White House. It's so damnably, depressingly fitting.

Posted by: charlesbakerharris | January 6, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Smart move is you ask me. If Obama has any hope to continue to advance progressive policies, he has to be able to bring in center and center right support. You can't do that if you are surrounded by hard left advisors. The hard left needs to recognize the reality of a Republican house that is stacked with Tea Party fruitcakes. The art of the possible starts with recognizing the realities of the impossible.

Posted by: truthwillout | January 6, 2011 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Smart move "if" you ask me, not is. Darn typos.

Posted by: truthwillout | January 6, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama is governing from the hard left? What planet are you people living on? Barack Obama has governed far to the right of Dwight Eisenhower or even Richard Nixon. What has happened is that as the GOP moves the sidelines further and further to the right, Democrats dutifully shift rightward to redefine the "center."

Bill Daley is a fitting chief of staff for an administration that, like Bill Clinton's, has increasingly shown itself more interested in pacifying Wall Street than helping millions of struggling Americans. Nothing is going to change until we start raising bloody hell.

If the past three decades have shown us anything it is that, while you can reason with a mule and persuade a horse, the only thing the (Wall Street) Hogs understand is a good kick in the snout.

Posted by: SmokyMountainCarpenter | January 6, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse

One good thing about bringing in someone with the experience of Daley is that perhaps Obama's political performance will be less inconsistent. As it is he has failed signally in sequencing legislation, communicating effectively, and demonstrating toughness. He has too often given away the store rather than using his strength in negotiations. Daley seems like an experienced and sensible player. Lofty rhetoric is fine for campaigning, but the expectation that Republicans would abide by the dreams of bipartisanship has been proven to be foolish. With better focus and communication, Obama might not have squandered his popularity.

Posted by: scientist1 | January 6, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Obama should have listened to Daley and Emmanuel and went for incremental change with health care rather than the full monte train wreck of Obamacare. Health care will be a millstone the Dems will carry to their electoral graves in Nov 2012.

Posted by: jkk1943 | January 6, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

competence?

if he is... obama will make sure to take any credit.

sad, we will never know.... because rule 1 is never show up the boss.

since the boss has a room temp IQ, daley will have to keep it very simple.

Posted by: docwhocuts | January 6, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

THE MAN CONTINUES TO SORROUND HIMSELF WITH THE WORST AMERICA HAS TO OFFER. WE DO NOT NEED ANY MORE POLITICAL HACKS FROM CHICAGO IN THE WHITE HOUSE. WHO WILL THEY HIRE NEXT, WILLIAM AYERS THE HOME GROWN TERRORIST THAT OBAMA JUST LOVES? LIBERALS SUCK!

Posted by: Cobra2 | January 6, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

OH well looks like the decider dude has said good bye to the left.........

Posted by: TBsportsguy | January 6, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Chicago Mayor Daley Resigns

Chief of Staff Rob Emanuel resigns

Emmanuel runs for Chicago Mayor

Obama pretends to evaluate candidates to replace Emanuel

Obama appoints son of resigned Mayor Daley Chief of Staff

I'm sure it was a tough choice made only after evaluating many candidates.

It's the Chicago way.

Posted by: jfv123 | January 6, 2011 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I think Daley was a good choice, EJ. He looks like a Chief of Staff at least. I dont know much about him, but I can tell you that I think he will be a vast improvement over Rahm Emanual. I also think it's fair to give the guy a chance. I respect Adam Green, but his assessment of Daly this early in the game is a bit premature. The man was hired to be a Chief of Staff and I believe he will execute his duties faithfully. I am also beginning to see why the WH tends to ignore leftists like Mr. Green...it get's a bit tiring hearing the left have tantrums everytime this President does something that they dont agree with. I can only speak for myself, but if Mr. Green wants the President and WH staff to support and pursue a progressive agenda, threats of nonsupport is certainly no way to do it. If Green made that pitch to me I am afraid my nature would tell me to tell him to take his support andd shove it. The problem is this type of maneuvering accomplishes nothing for anyone. I dont understand why Green and his ilk dont just caucus the administration like everyone else does, by visiting & making proposals/suggestions in a proactive and constructive way. Going public to demonstrate disagreement with the President on every decision and never going to public to agree with the President over what he does right seems to be pattern of Mr. Green, Katrina Van Den Heuval, and their ilk. For people that are supposed to be on almost the same page, this pattern of public confrontations over everything in my view just demonstrates that the left is as nutty and irrational as the right. If
Green wants his concerns heard, he should first try some actual diplomacy instead of media blackmail.

Posted by: ruthella10 | January 6, 2011 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I think Daley was a good choice, EJ. He looks like a Chief of Staff at least. I dont know much about him, but I can tell you that I think he will be a vast improvement over Rahm Emanual. I also think it's fair to give the guy a chance. I respect Adam Green, but his assessment of Daly this early in the game is a bit premature. The man was hired to be a Chief of Staff and I believe he will execute his duties faithfully. I am also beginning to see why the WH tends to ignore leftists like Mr. Green...it get's a bit tiring hearing the left have tantrums everytime this President does something that they dont agree with. I can only speak for myself, but if Mr. Green wants the President and WH staff to support and pursue a progressive agenda, threats of nonsupport is certainly no way to do it. If Green made that pitch to me I am afraid my nature would tell me to tell him to take his support andd shove it. The problem is this type of maneuvering accomplishes nothing for anyone. I dont understand why Green and his ilk dont just caucus the administration like everyone else does, by visiting & making proposals/suggestions in a proactive and constructive way. Going public to demonstrate disagreement with the President on every decision and never going to public to agree with the President over what he does right seems to be pattern of Mr. Green, Katrina Van Den Heuval, and their ilk. For people that are supposed to be on almost the same page, this pattern of public confrontations over everything in my view just demonstrates that the left is as nutty and irrational as the right. If
Green wants his concerns heard, he should first try some actual diplomacy instead of media blackmail.

Posted by: ruthella10 | January 6, 2011 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Almost as good a pick as Larry Summers!

Posted by: dfdougherty | January 6, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps some in the Party would not be happy unless Bill Ayers was sanitized and appointed to this leadership role. When it comes to adopting a practical approach to building a diverse team, some can' seem to take "Yes" for an answer"...
While the Left continues to gripe about the spirit of agreement and (forced) alignment on the right, they go to great lengths to avoid any such a display of unity.
This Daley situation is just a daily rehash of that "hard-to-swallow" dish being served up to a crowd without the appetite to swallow much more.

Posted by: dbsinOakRidge | January 6, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I really expect better from Dionne. The president is still the president. Anybody remember that Emanuel didn't think he should pursue health care, then fought for it tooth and nail? Daley's job is to administer the West Wing and ADVISE the president. I'd rather have someone in there who knows what's going on and knows how to do the job, and that seems to describe Daley. I consider myself very liberal, and I think it's an excellent choice.

Posted by: TruthtoPower4 | January 6, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

odopo displaying his ability to shuck and jive. what be next? perhaps some of the BS new panthers?

Posted by: pofinpa | January 6, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of protean, Obama could use a little nourishment...yeahyeahyeah, protein.

Protean is an interesting word. Not like flip-flop, which is an insulting word; nor like weasel, which is an ad hominem attack; nor like liquid, which implies weakness. Protean is what you call a flip-flopping weasel who has a content/substance-liquidity disorder and doesn't get enough protein.

In other words, if you have no spine, no ideals, no talents, and no goals other than your own continued enthronement, you're protean; you're a jack of all trades but a master of none, you're versatile but not a virtuoso.

Posted by: tom75 | January 6, 2011 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Or will Daley's business ties, in reassuring the financial and CEO world, actually give Obama more room to pursue progressive policies?

===========================================

It would be a signal to the business world that Obama doesn't have a big target on their backs anymore. The perception that Obama has the same hatred of businesspeople as the lefties who post on these boards has really hurt him.

Posted by: bbface21 | January 6, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

I don't want to second guess this President. He has shown the ability to get a lot of things done (for those of us keeping count). You may have missed it but Defense secretary Gates just announced a 78 billion dollar freeze/cut in military budget-the first since 2001. The president would not have been able to do this with a left leaning Defense Sec. I realize a lot of people who are bad mouthing the President have not made a conscious attempt at really looking at what was achieved in 2 short years he has been in office. They have completely swallowed the lies and innuendos promoted by Faux News and Extreme Right Wing Talk Radio hosts-sigh!

I will judge the incoming chief of staff from the achievements of the administration between now and the election season.

Happy New Year everyone!

Posted by: ns3k | January 6, 2011 3:44 PM | Report abuse

mike85 wrote:
"Obama is the most corrupt president in the history of the US,"

Do you have one scintilla of evidence to this effect or are you just parroting Issa's talking point? Never mind . . . I know the facts don't matter to ideologues.

Posted by: scientist1 | January 6, 2011 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Progressives like Adam Green make me extremely weary with their constant harping about everything. They weren't even happy when DADT passed because they said it took too long so no need to be happy! I will never refer to myself as a prog. b/c I wouldn't want to be associated with that.

You know Obama, he'll do what's possible at the time and what he thinks will work, regardless of how it's labeled by the press or various groups. Very pragmatic which is how they train organizers to be! It's very Midwestern, too.....pragmatism.

Posted by: carolerae48 | January 6, 2011 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Progressives like Adam Green make me extremely weary with their constant harping about everything. They weren't even happy when DADT passed because they said it took too long so no need to be happy! I will never refer to myself as a prog. b/c I wouldn't want to be associated with that.

You know Obama, he'll do what's possible at the time and what he thinks will work, regardless of how it's labeled by the press or various groups. Very pragmatic which is how they train organizers to be! It's very Midwestern, too.....pragmatism.

Posted by: carolerae48 | January 6, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Progressives like Adam Green make me extremely weary with their constant harping about everything. They weren't even happy when DADT passed because they said it took too long so no need to be happy! I will never refer to myself as a progressives b/c I wouldn't want to be associated with that.

You know the president, he'll do what's possible at the time and what he thinks will work, regardless of how it's labeled by the press or various groups. Very pragmatic which is how they train organizers to be! It's very Midwestern, too.....pragmatism.

Posted by: carolerae48 | January 6, 2011 5:11 PM | Report abuse

He's not appointing him to a cabinet position. Chief of staff is one position where the president must trust the person to carry out his wishes and to knock heads together when necessary. For all the criticism, fair or not, Obama takes you can't say he's not his own man. Those who are concerned Daley will tilt the administration the right need to relax.

Posted by: roskoreh | January 6, 2011 5:34 PM | Report abuse

It's neither about competence or ideology. It's about fund raising from big business and Wall Street for the 2012 election.

Posted by: BBear1 | January 6, 2011 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Uh-oh, the appointment of Daley, a top executive of the much-reviled Chase bank, seems to mean that Obama is once again favoring Smith Barney over Barney Smith.

Does anyone remember Barney?
(Hints: Denver? Convention? 2008?)

And, BTW, here's a little update on the current practices of Chase:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/06/BUUJ1H4422.DTL

Posted by: HughBriss | January 6, 2011 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Halleluiah! We have another crook in the White House.

Obama is the most corrupt president in the history of the US, and he names the brother of the most corrupt mayor in the country as his chief of Staff. What else would you expect, someone with integrity in the job?


Posted by: mike85
----
More corrupt than Harding? Than Nixon? On what basis do you make this claim? Oh, if there was only a moron filter on the WaPo web site we would all be spared idiotic posts like yours. I suggest you remove your head from your posterior and go back to school. Your ignorance is staggering.

Posted by: nyrunner101 | January 6, 2011 7:51 PM | Report abuse

The middle of the road continues to list to the right.

Posted by: seldoc1 | January 6, 2011 8:01 PM | Report abuse

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