Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
For two years President Obama’s critics have accused him of running a “Chicago-style” White House, whatever they might mean by that.
Now they’re about to see the real deal — and we think it’s a good one.
Obama on Thursday named Bill Daley, the consummate political insider and infighter, to be his new chief of staff. Daley is stepping into a job last held permanently by Rahm Emanuel, who in turn is doing his best to step into Daley’s brother Richie’s job, mayor of Chicago.
Maybe Bill and Rahm can swap houses.
If Chicago-style politics was once about brute power, today it is more about compromise, persuasion, the trading of favors, and in a pinch, softly spoken threats.
All Daleys, although expert shouters, are renowned whisperers. Mayor Richard J. Daley, the family patriarch, often spoke so softly that people had to lean in to hear. This is the Chicago-style politics that Bill Daley will bring to the Obama White House, along with an instinctively moderate political ideology, also typical of anybody named Daley.
They just like getting stuff done.
Bill Daley’s appointment is, above all, a clear message that Obama will continue to plow the middle ground in American politics, as he did successfully in the weeks after his self-described “shellacking” in the November midterm elections.
More liberal Democrats already are crying foul, saying Daley — a former banker and Secretary of Commerce under President Bill Clinton — is far too sympathetic to the needs of big business. They in particular will never forgive him for, while serving in Clinton’s Cabinet, pushing through the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, says they’re thrilled.
“Bill Daley is a man of stature and extraordinary experience in government, business, trade negotiations and global affairs,” gushed Thomas J. Donohue, chief executive of the Chamber. “He’s an accomplished manager and strong leader.”
So much for the notion of Barack Obama as a closet radical.
For years, Bill has been called the smartest of the Daley boys, though his political ambitions took a backseat to his brother’s career. As long as Richie was mayor, Bill was not likely to run for governor or senator or, for that matter, mayor. He instead worked behind the scenes, the best of political operatives. He was his brother’s most important adviser and most loyal defender.
Even as Commerce secretary and as the able manager of Al Gore’s presidential campaign, he kept a relatively low profile.
Now, as chief of staff to Obama, Bill Daley will be tested in public life as never before. To help the president succeed despite a hostile GOP majority in the House, he’ll have to employ all his skills as a boss and a deal-maker.
And maybe we’ll finally see who’s the smartest Daley boy.