Obama touts veteran Democratic centrist as chief of staff

Thursday, January 6, 2011

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama named William Daley as his new chief of staff Thursday, picking a fellow Chicago native and veteran political operative who has served Democratic Party stalwarts but also has strong ties to the business community.

The appointment comes amid a broader reshuffle of Obama’s inner White House circle and some cabinet positions to kick off the second half of his term. Obama was expected Friday to name Treasury official Gene Sperling his top economic advisor, replacing Larry Summers.

Spokesman Robert Gibbs and chief advisor David Axelrod are also departing in the coming month. Paul Volcker, the former central bank head who has served on an economic advisory board for Obama, was also preparing to leave, according to The Wall Street Journal Thursday.

Daley replaces Pete Rouse, another long-time confidant of Obama who has been serving temporarily in the post since Rahm Emanuel left the White House late last year to run for mayor of Chicago.

Daley, the brother of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, was named to one of the most important positions in US government at a critical time for Obama as he deals with resurgent Republicans in Congress who are aiming to undo many of the president’s domestic policies.

Obama said “few Americans can boast the breadth of experience” that Daley would bring to the White House, including a “deep understanding” of the economy and politics in the US.

Daley served as commerce secretary under former president Bill Clinton, managed vice president Al Gore’s 2000 election campaign and was a part of Obama’s transition team after the 2008 election. But he has also been critical of Democrats for veering too far to the left of the political spectrum on domestic policies under Obama.

Daley, 62, in brief remarks at the White House ceremony praised Obama’s leadership and said the president “honoured me and my family by giving me an opportunity to serve you and to serve our nation.”

Daley is currently a top executive with Wall Street powerhouse JP Morgan Chase. His appointment was welcomed by the business community, which also remembers Daley leading the effort to get the North American Free Trade Agreement through Congress in 1993.

“This is a strong appointment. Bill Daley is a man of stature and extraordinary experience in government, business, trade negotiations, and global affairs,” said Thomas Donohue, president of the US Chamber of Commerce, the largest US business association, which has clashed with Obama on a series of top priorities over the past two years.

Daley has also been praised by left-leaning politicians including Howard Dean, who had called for Obama to bring in a fresh face from outside the White House. However, Obama also described Daley as a long-time friend who hails from the same hometown of Chicago.

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