Tuesday, January 10, 2012

White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley resigns, finding no deals to be made

With all eyes on today's Republican New Hampshire primary, it was almost possible to miss the news that William M. Daley, President Obama's Chief of Staff, will be stepping down after what most people are calling a frustrating year. He will be replaced by Jacob J. Lew, the budget director. 

The New York Times had this to say about Daley's departure:

Mr. Daley, an affable former banker who is the son and brother of legendary Chicago mayors, proved to be an awkward fit on the Obama team. Recruited largely for his deal-making skills and ties to the business world, he failed to help his boss strike a huge budget deal with Republicans in the House.

After that failed negotiation, which led to months of acrimony between the White House and Congress, some of Mr. Daley's duties were transferred to Pete Rouse, a low-profile former Congressional aide with closer ties to the president.

That Mr. Daley was frustrated by Washington was no secret. In October, he told a Chicago TV station that he planned to leave the White House in January 2013, at the end of Mr. Obama's first term. It was not clear what precipitated his decision to leave now.

Is the obvious comment that a man with "deal-making" skills was not the best fit for the current dynamic in Washington? Old-school politics, with good-faith bargaining, which involves getting some of what you want in return for giving up some things, is not where we are at the moment.

We know that the Republican agenda is to ensure that Obama fails. The way they see it, nothing is supposed to happen. In that context, a deal-maker like Daley really had nothing to do.

Now that the election is in sight, different skills are required. Best advice for Obama may be in the immortal words of the late owner of the Oakland Raiders, Al Davis, who famously said, "just win baby."

Just win, Mr. President, with majorities in the House and Senate, then jam it down their throats in a second term, if that's how they want to play. It's not my first choice, but it's all they're likely to understand.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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