President Barack Obama named former Commerce Secretary William Daley as his new chief of staff Thursday.
“Few Americans can boast the breadth of experience Bill brings to this job,” Obama said during Daley’s formal announcement at the White House. Daley was Commerce secretary under President Bill Clinton and most recently the Midwest chairman of JPMorgan Chase.
More importantly, the president said, Daley “possesses a deep understanding of how jobs are created and how to grow our economy.” He referred to Daley as “a devoted patriot” and “a fellow Chicagoan,” and he joked that his adeptness in government and politics is “a genetic trait,” referring to the fact that Daley’s brother is the mayor of Chicago.
Daley said public service “is an honorable calling” and praised Obama for his leadership “during a most difficult time for our nation.” He vowed to the president that his team “will not let you down, nor the nation.”
Obama announced the staff changes with Daley standing by his side, along with Peter Rouse, who has been filling in as interim chief of staff since Rahm Emanuel left in the fall to run for mayor of Chicago. Rouse will now serve as counselor to the president — a move that drew cheers and a standing ovation from the crowd of White House aides.
“He is a unique and indispensable asset to me and to this administration. I cannot imagine life here without him, and I told him so,” Obama said.
In contrast to the reverie at the White House, Obama’s choice in Daley immediately angered liberal groups who say he is too beholden to the business community. Among other things, Daley opposed the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a major priority of liberals.
Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn.org, which has 5 million members, said Daley’s selection “is troubling and sends the wrong message to the American people” because of his ties to big business.
“This was a real mistake by the White House,” added Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which boasts a membership of 675,000. “Bill Daley consistently urges the Democratic Party to pursue a corporate agenda that alienates both independent and Democratic voters. If President Obama listens to that kind of political advice from Bill Daley, Democrats will suffer a disastrous 2012.”
Paul Blumenthal of the Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency group, warned that Daley will serve as “an official emissary from Wall Street” in the White House.
Picking Daley sends “the message that ... normal people matter less than the continued flow of campaign donations from the uber-wealthy,” Blumenthal wrote in a blog post on the group’s website.
Not surprisingly, the business community embraced the news.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue praised Daley as “a strong appointment” who understands the business sector.
“Bill Daley is a man of stature and extraordinary experience in government, business, trade negotiations, and global affairs,” Donohue said in a statement. “We look forward to working with him to accelerate our recovery, grow the economy, create jobs, and tackle America’s global challenges.”
Jay Timmons, executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, called Daley a “strong business leader” and pointed to the group’s solid working relationship during the Clinton years.
“We look forward to working with him again on policies that will move our country forward, especially on job creation, economic growth and global competitiveness,” Timmons said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.