Yesterday, Dave Weigel tweeted, “Remember how Chief of Staff Bill Daley was going to save Obama and get credibility with businesses?” Today, Politico catches up with the brother of the former Mayor of Chicago to see how well he has accomplished that mission. The verdict? Daley has managed to accomplish the impossible … he’s made people at the White House miss Rahm Emanuel:
The 63-year-old scion of Chicago political royalty was brought in as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff to provide fresh blood, corporate-world experience and adult supervision to a young, free-wheeling White House staff. But critics inside and outside the West Wing are questioning whether he is the tough, competent manager needed to shake up the operation and propel Obama into the 2012 election year. …
Interviews with two dozen current and former White House staffers and congressional aides paint the picture of Daley as a steady, seasoned political operative struggling to find his footing in one of the most hostile environments anyone in his job has ever had to face.
“Is there a level of unhappiness with Bill around the White House? Yeah,” said a person close to Obama who spoke on condition of anonymity, like almost all other insiders interviewed for this story.
“You do what you have to do to streamline the organization, cutting meetings from 20 people to five. But a lot of people are pissed,” the person added. “You can’t replicate Rahm, he was a once-in-a-lifetime guy, for good and bad. Daley is much more of an executive and former member of the cabinet. … When it comes to dealing with the Hill, well, they just don’t know Bill.”
For one thing, aides told Politico, Rahm would have known better than to try to buffalo John Boehner into pre-empting a Republican presidential debate with a joint-session speech. But it goes farther than that. Had Rahm still been in the White House, he would have coordinated better with Harry Reid on the jobs-bill rollout. Obama ended up with egg on his face when Reid told the press that he wouldn’t schedule the American Jobs Act for floor time right away, a sure sign that he doesn’t have the votes to pass it. Obama had all summer — heck, he had two years — to coordinate a jobs bill with the leader of the chamber of Congress his own party controls. A fumble like that is just plain legislative-coordination incompetence.
And that’s a bit ironic, considering the connection both Daley and Obama have to the Chicago Machine. Daley’s family didn’t control Chicago politics for decades out of incompetence. And yet, with the White House clearly being run the Chicago Way, the administration is not just publicly stumbling but people are talking about it to the press as well. Daley has alienated the staff, according to Politico’s report, and angered Democrats on Capitol Hill. Daley has cut down on access to Obama — probably at Obama’s request — which has limited his range of opinions and resulted in even more of an echo chamber.
That comes as no surprise, either. With an opportunity to rebound in a national address to a joint session of Congress by changing directions and offering something new in economic policy, Obama instead regurgitated a smaller version of the failed 2009 stimulus bill. He’s also now reversed himself on Social Security reform, taking his previously-agreed cuts and changes off the table in his upcoming deficit reduction package despite talking about the need to fix entitlement programs. For an administration that had already been seen as weak and vacillating, Obama’s actions in the past several weeks have amplified those impressions into a full-blown crisis of confidence in his ability to lead — among Democrats.
By any measure, the Daley era has been a tremendous flop, but considering the product Daley came to sell, it was almost certainly Mission:Impossible anyway.