Reaction to President Obama's selection of Bill Daley as his chief of staff has been limited to a fairly predictable argument: He's either part of the problem as a Wall Street and corporate insider or a savior/emissary to the business community that has had its feelings hurt in the first half of Obama's term by insults real or imagined. There will be expressions of outrage, Inside Job style, over the next few days. But with financial reform done, and Elizabeth Warren ensconced, Obama can surely handle the political criticism.
But beyond the politics, is Daley a smart choice? I'd say yes. There are four strong arguments for Daley that are compelling:
1. He's from outside the Obama bubble. In terms of bringing in new blood, rather than just rearranging the chairs, Daley is as close to the new guy as Obama could possibly get within the president's comfort level. With the Daley/Chicago connection, he isn't a total outsider to the Obama world. Yet he doesn't bring preconceptions, notions, scars or baggage from the last four years of campaigning and governing.
2. He brings a preexisting political network to the table. Daley's relationships to fundraisers, businesspeople, and officeholders will be very helpful to Obama in the next two years of governing. From his work in the private sector and politics, Daley can bring new surrogates and supporters to the table to help make the case for the president's policies, a significant weak spot in the White House operation up until now.
3. He has prior political experience as an executive. Daley has run a presidential campaign and served as a cabinet secretary. He understands the dynamic of serving the president, but won't be cowed or wowed by his prior relationship with Obama or the power of the office. He has been a leader in his own right, and will have more gravitas outside the White House as an emissary for the president as well.
4. He has prior Cabinet experience. Daley understands the complexity of running government agencies in D.C. and the interplay between them and the White House. From his new perch, he will help make sure that all assets are firing on all cylinders in support of the president's, not the specific agency's agenda. Daley is a seasoned, experienced hand who can spot evasion or excuses from the bureaucracy immediately and get things back on track quickly.
While a new Chief of Staff is hardly a panacea for the many challenges facing the president, someone with Daley's assets will help him reinvigorate and reset his leadership in 2011.