President Barack Obama drew cheers from Wall Street when he chose William Daley, a veteran Chicago pol who most recently has been closely identified with the financial industry, as his new White House chief of staff.
But the appointment caused heartburn on the left because in 2009, almost exactly a year before the 2010 midterm election, Daley came out against Obamacare, fearing it would lead to an electoral disaster for his fellow Democrats. The left is dismayed that the guy it thought would be the most reliably liberal president ever to sit in the Oval Office has installed such a man as his gatekeeper. The Sunlight Foundation’s Paul Blumenthal noted, for example, that Obama “once told a meeting of bankers that he was ‘the only thing standing between you and the pitchforks.’ … Picking Daley would send the message that the pitchforks — normal people — matter less than the continued flow of campaign donations from the über-wealthy.”
Moderation of Obama’s political associations would be welcomed in this corner, but don’t expect that to result from Daley’s arrival at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The president once again showed his unwillingness to unmoor himself from Chicago’s corrupt political culture. Obama has a history of obeisance toward Daley’s brother, Richard, Chicago’s mayor, and has rained tax-paid federal manna on Chicago. In November, the Department of Transportation issued a press release gloating that $800 million in federal subsidies have now gone to the 10-year-old O’Hare Airport Modernization Project — Mayor Daley’s chief preoccupation and great white whale.
That’s more than any airport reconstruction project has ever received in the nation’s history.
We also doubt that Daley will try to change Obama’s policies because he knows the president’s political bearings are firmly fixed considerably to the left of most Americans. The biggest difference between the two men is that Daley is mostly governed by political opportunism, whereas Obama has an ideological agenda. Other White House advisers have tried and failed to sway Obama.
According to former auto czar Steve Rattner, Obama ignored economic advisor Austan Goulsbee’s pleas to let Chrysler fail in order to save taxpayers’ dollars and give GM and Ford better odds of succeeding. According to liberal journalist Jonathan Alter, former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel failed to prevent Obama from cramming health care reform down the American people’s throats.
The selection of Daley is all about the president’s 2012 re-election campaign and Obama’s eagerness to please his two donor bases, Chicago and Wall Street. We expect the campaign cash will keep flowing liberally from both places because Daley’s greatest asset to Obama is as political rainmaker operating at the intersection of politics and the Fortune 500. You could say that it’s the worst of all worlds. Unless you get really excited about the renovation of O’Hare.