Robert Gibbs will leave the Obama administration after two years, which for press secretaries is not a particularly short period of time. As he exits, William Daley will take over the management of the White House staff. Are these two events related? Toby Harnden, the Washington correspondent of the British newspaper Telegraph, thinks they are, and that Gibbs may not be the last person who gets pushed out of the inner circle:
I wondered yesterday whether Robert Gibbs jumped or was pushed and noted that President Barack Obama’s words indicated that it was “not an entirely voluntary departure”.
It’s being reported by John King on CNN right now that Gibbs wanted to be a presidential counsellor – something he’s been putting about for quite a while – but William Daley, the new chief of staff, nixed this because he believed that too many cooks would spoil the presidential broth. So that’s why Gibbs is out.
Additionally, King reports that Valerie Jarrett, whose sole qualification to being a senior counsellor seems to be that she’s a long-time Chicago buddy of Barack and Michelle Obama, will have her wings clipped. Daley, not Jarrett, will be the person speaking to the business community.
Would Obama jettison Jarrett, one of his closest and longest political allies? Jonathan Alter once quoted an anonymous aide describing Obama as “the most unsentimental man I’ve ever met,” which is another way of saying that friendships matter but his career goals matter a lot more. Jarrett herself noted her boss’ ability to “emotionally detach” in the same passage from Alter’s look at the first year of Obama’s presidency, so a push out the door probably won’t come as much of a shock to Jarrett if and when it comes.
Why would Daley start pushing out those who have been on the inside from Day 1? Katrina Trinko spent some time checking Daley’s record on Lexis/Nexis for The Corner and found that Daley has been publicly critical of the direction of the Obama White House for over a year, both on policy and presentation. He hit the White House for pursuing the unpopular ObamaCare over a year ago in the Washington Post, for instance, on Christmas Eve 2009:
Despite this raft of bad news, Democrats are not doomed to return to the wilderness. The question is whether the party is prepared to listen carefully to what the American public is saying. Voters are not re-embracing conservative ideology, nor are they falling back in love with the Republican brand. If anything, the Democrats’ salvation may lie in the fact that Republicans seem even more hell-bent on allowing their radical wing to drag the party away from the center.
All that is required for the Democratic Party to recover its political footing is to acknowledge that the agenda of the party’s most liberal supporters has not won the support of a majority of Americans — and, based on that recognition, to steer a more moderate course on the key issues of the day, from health care to the economy to the environment to Afghanistan.
Daley also warned of the consequences of pursuing a radical agenda in the face of stiffening opposition with what proved to be a prescient warning:
While it may be too late to avoid some losses in 2010, it is not too late to avoid the kind of rout that redraws the political map. The leaders of the Democratic Party need to move back toward the center — and in doing so, set the stage for the many years’ worth of leadership necessary to produce the sort of pragmatic change the American people actually want.
Even in March, after Democrats closed in on victory for ObamaCare, Daley issued a warning that it might turn out to be a Pyrrhic win:
“They miscalculated on health care,” Daley told the New York Times. “The election of ’08 sent a message that after 30 years of center-right governing, we had moved to center left — not left.”
Given this perspective, it seems clear that Obama chose Daley to end the push to the radical Left — or perhaps more accurately, to end the perception of that push while Obama consolidates what gains he made in the first two years. If Obama has barred the word “triangulation” from the West Wing as reported, he hired a man who seems inclined to pursue it under any other terminology. Daley may not have pushed Gibbs out of the job of press secretary, but it looks like Daley may be pushing out the old guard for a more politically adept approach in the next two years.
Update: Daley denies pushing Gibbs out the door and hails his performance:
Daley said in a statement that Gibbs’s name “never, ever came up once in any discussion I had with the president or staff about me coming to the White House.”
“In my view, he has done a great job as press secretary for President Obama, and I look forward to working with him as he continues to help provide advice to the president and our team over the next two years,” Daley said.
Via Matthew Sheffield.