01/10/2012 03:49 pm ET

Rahm Emanuel: Bill Daley Can Leave White House With 'Head Held High' (VIDEO)

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CHICAGO -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel weighed in on the departure of White House chief of staff Bill Daley Tuesday, saying the fellow Chicagoan can leave the “toughest job in America” with his “head held high," the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Emanuel, who left the chief of staff position to run for mayor, made the comments during a news conference Tuesday, where he defended Daley's decision to head home and spend more time with his family.

Administration officials told The Huffington Post that Obama was caught off guard by Daley's decision, and that he tried to persuade him not to go.

Emanuel called the chief of staff position "grinding" and explained that people don't last long in the role these days. From the Sun-Times:

Emanuel noted that the average life span of the modern-day White House chief of staff is 18 months.

“It is a grinding job. It’s exciting. But basically every problem before it gets to the Oval Office sits at that desk. … It’s all incoming — constantly. … I lasted past the 18 months. Bill didn’t. … I don’t think it’s a judgment on Bill [that he didn’t last]. Bill did a good job for the president because he served him loyally and had his back. That is the ultimate test,” he said.

Emanuel told NBC Chicago that he will have dinner with Daley when he returns to Chicago in late January.

Daley, the brother of longtime Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, will co-chair Obama's 2012 campaign, NBC reported Monday.

“I made a commitment to the president through his re-election," Daley told the station, "which I’m confident he will do, and then my wife and I will be back in Chicago."