CNN: Obama to pick Denis McDonough for chief of staff

posted at 11:11 am on January 17, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama will announce Denis McDonough for his choice of chief of staff, CNN reports, with an announcement expected soon.  McDonough replaces Jack Lew, who went to Treasury in the second-term shake-up.  That may produce another uncomfortable round of diversity scolding for the President:

President Barack Obama is expected to name Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough as the next White House chief of staff, several sources familiar with the matter told CNN.

McDonough would replace Jack Lew, who has been nominated for secretary of the Treasury Department. …

The decision comes as Obama faces criticism for a lack of diversity among his top-level Cabinet picks for his second term. His nominees for secretary of state, secretary of defense, treasury secretary and CIA director have all been male.

Earlier this week, Obama advised his critics to wait until he had made all of his appointments to his next administration.  So far, though, there doesn’t seem to be much difference in trajectory.

The chief of staff appointment doesn’t require Senate confirmation, nor should it.  That’s a good thing in this instance, though, considering McDonough’s potential involvement in the Benghazi debacle:

McDonough has carved out a reputation as a fiercely loyal and demanding aide who has played a key role in some of the administration’s highest profile decisions, including the U.S. military drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, the response to the Japanese tsunami and the handling of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Promoting anyone involved in the Benghazi debacle should raise eyebrows on Capitol Hill, especially with the Congressional investigations still in full swing.  The Washington Post also notes that McDonough, a devout Catholic, advised Obama on the HHS contraception mandate that created a firestorm of controversy and prompted the Catholic Church to take HHS to court in a fight over religious liberty:

His influence extends beyond national security. McDonough is a devout Catholic, and he has served as something of an informal adviser on religious matters, such as during last year’s debate over the White House’s handling of contraception rules under the new health-care law.

That sounds like McDonough either offered some bad advice, or that Obama wasn’t listening to McDonough’s input.  The appointment makes the former more likely than the latter, which again makes this decision a little puzzling, but not terribly surprising.


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