William Daley is stepping down as White House chief of staff and budget director Jack Lew is taking over the President Obama’s team as it heads into a tough election year, senior administration officials say.
The choice of Lew puts a veteran staffer of the White House, Capitol Hill and State Department in a critical position at a difficult time for the president. Obama hopes he can work through tough budget and economic issues with Congress this year despite fierce opposition from Republicans in the GOP-led House. Having a strong team captain who can deal with lawmakers, staffers and business leaders is considered crucial to their strategy.
But aides say Obama had faith in Daley to lead that effort, and that he had not been discussing making any changes prior to last week. Daley’s letter took the president by surprise, said three officials familiar with the personnel discussions that followed. They requested anonymity to speak about the internal talks in advance of the public announcement.
In October, Daley told Chicago reporters that he was looking forward to returning to his hometown but that he would serve the president through the duration of the reelection campaign. It had been a grueling year for Obama that included a summer of fighting with Republicans over the debt ceiling and related budget issues.
In November, Obama directed a change in the flow chart at the White House, keeping Daley in charge but shifting many of the day-to-day operational duties to Pete Rouse, a trusted aide who had served as interim chief of staff. Friends said Daley would focus on high-level managerial duties and be advisor and surrogate for the president.
After winning an end-of-year victory in the extension of the payroll tax cut, Daley went to Mexico and to Chicago to celebrate Christmas and spend time with his wife and grandchildren. When he came back, he told Obama right away that he had decided to leave.
This isn’t a total shock, I pretty much figured it was coming when Daley was semi-demoted a couple months ago.
The problem with the Obama administration isn’t management, it’s leadership.