This is a new one. Chief of Staff Bill Daley is giving up day-to-day operations at the White House, with Pete Rouse taking over. I’m not sure there’s anything else to the job other than day-to-day operations; that’s kind of what a Chief of Staff does.
On Monday, Mr. Daley turned over day-to-day management of the West Wing to Pete Rouse, a veteran aide to President Obama, according to several people familiar with the matter. It is unusual for a White House chief of staff to relinquish part of the job.
A senior White House official who attended Monday’s staff meeting where Mr. Daley made the announcement said that his new role has not yet been fully defined. But in recent weeks, Mr. Daley has focused more on managing relations with influential outsiders.
A couple things here. Daley was more a symbol than anything else, something the Administration could hang up in the West Wing and say “see, we’re not anti-business, ex-JPMorgan Chase banker Bill Daley is here!” I guess he doesn’t actually have to do his job to remain as that symbol.
Second, “managing relations” in the year before an election sounds pretty much like fundraising to me. That may not be in the portfolio of a White House Chief of Staff, but it’s likely to be his role. Either that or he takes calls from bankers and tries to get their needs met.
Third, in a sense, the proof of concept for being the bagman for the corporate world has already been achieved. Daley successfully got a rollback of ozone standards on behalf of industry:
Obama’s surprise move to block an ozone regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) followed immense pressure from industry trade associations, which made numerous personal appeals to White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley.
Daley met with the heads of several business groups more than two weeks before Obama withdrew the regulation — an unusual level of senior White House involvement in the regulatory process.
Daley also shepherded the so-called “free trade” deals through Congress. His latest pet project, according to Zach Carter, is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the “NAFTA of Asia”:
As commerce secretary under Bill Clinton, William Daley worked with U.S. pharmaceutical giants to curb the use of cheaper generic drugs abroad. As a board member for Abbott Laboratories, he had a front-row seat on a brutal clash between a major drug company and a developing nation over access to life-saving medication. And as White House chief of staff today, Daley has President Barack Obama’s ear.
Add up Daley’s power and experience, and experts who follow public health policy suspect his influence in the U.S. stance in negotiations over a major international trade deal — a stance with hugely profitable implications for giant American drugmakers.
The United States is in talks with eight other Pacific nations to establish the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the administration hopes will serve as a template for other trade pacts. According to leaked documents from the negotiations, the Obama administration is using the deal to push hard-line intellectual property standards that could drive up medicine prices overseas, boosting the bottom line for U.S. drugmakers like Abbott Labs at the expense of public health.
Maybe his expertise really isn’t with the whole “being Chief of Staff” part of a White House job, and he’s better suited to just take requests from the corporate world and turn them into policy. To wit:
Lately, Mr. Daley has been trying out his new role, deploying his back-slapping persona in Washington social circles. He recently held a private reception at his Ritz Carlton residence for a small group of D.C. elites, including former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, former Fanne Mae Chief Executive Jim Johnson and Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the U.S.
Former Sen. Evan Bayh (D., Ind.) said an invitation to lunch with Mr. Daley in his West Wing office was the first time he had heard from him. Mr. Bayh said the two men, over tuna salads and Diet Coke, discussed ideas for kickstarting the economy. “I just think they’re just genuinely taking soundings,” Mr. Bayh said.
So while some are calling this an example of Daley’s failure, and an expression of a new White House committed to populism, maybe they’re just focusing Daley on what he’s good at.