Tuesday, January 4, 2011



The Chicago media were abuzz this morning with talk that President Obama may be on the verge of hiring Bill Daley as his chief of staff. I don’t know whether there is any substance to this story, though I suspect there must be something to it if such rumblings have reached this stage. I do know that installing Bill Daley as chief of staff would be an absolutely BRILLIANT move on Obama’s part for a number of reasons:

--A Daley appointment would signal even more decisively than Obama’s actions during the lame duck Congress (See my 12/8/10 piece, ARKANSAS BIG BILL OBAMA?.) that Obama is moving toward the center, and he must move to the center if he intends to remain president.

Some might say that candidate Obama talked about being a “transformational” president and thus won’t move to the center. Others, especially on the right, argue that President Obama is a dyed-in-the wool liberal and won’t move to the center. Both arguments are nonsense. The idea of being a “transformational” president pursuing an ideological agenda and perhaps changing the tides of history might be appealing to a candidate, especially a young, naïve candidate like Mr. Obama. But, after a few months in office, the idea of remaining “president” somehow becomes more appealing than being a “transformational president” if the latter presents any obstacle to achieving the former. Contrary to the beliefs of his most ardent admirers and critics, President Obama is little more than a garden variety politician whose ambition ultimately trumps any sense of mission.

--Bill Daley was one of the architects of Mr. Clinton’s triangulation strategy. The Republicans should note, and dread, his becoming a key adviser to this young, impressionable president. Again, see my 12/8/10 piece, ARKANSAS BIG BILL OBAMA?.

--Bill Daley has huge admirers in the business community, a community to whom Mr. Obama is at least rhetorically trying to build bridges. The ascent of Mr. Daley would show that such efforts are more than rhetorical.

--The Daley family name evokes a Democratic Party of the past, and in the very best sense. If the Democratic Party were still the party represented by the Daleys, no one would have heard of the Reagan Democrats. Such people, by the way, were called “Daley Democrats,” and not always admiringly by members of their own party, long before they were called “Reagan Democrats.”

--Bill Daley is very smart. Not only has he shown that by his skillful diplomatic maneuvering in Washington and on LaSalle Street, but he also went to high school at St. Ignatius. Enough said.

Doubtless the conspiracy theorists will come up with all manner of fantastic schemes behind Daley’s ascension, real or actual, to the chief of staff’s post. Here are a few of the more interesting, maybe even credible, stories you will hear:

--Rahm Emanuel was lured into running for mayor of Chicago only to open the chief of staff’s spot for Bill Daley, sort of an effort to replace the children with the grown-ups. Rich Daley retires, Emanuel takes the bait after being assured of support from the Daley family and its political apparatus in Chicago, and then the kid is not exactly hung out to dry, but his success in the mayor’s race becomes inconsequential. If he wins, he wins. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t. It doesn’t matter; the real objective has been achieved: Bill Daley is running things in Washington, as the Daley family always intended. Sounds interesting, but one doubts if Rich Daley would give up his permanent job only to get his brother a temporary job, even THE BIG temporary job, in Washington.

On the other hand, if Rich were going to retire anyway, why not make a political virtue out of that intention and get the wet behind the ears amateur from the north side to do the Daleys’ bidding by presenting an irresistible temptation to Mr. Emanuel and then make him salivate more prodigiously by giving the ingénue the idea that he will have the Daley family’s support in his quest for mayor?

--Bill Daley is being installed as chief of staff by Obama at the behest of the guys back in Chicago who really run things. Obama was given an order he couldn’t refuse. Why? In order to make sure that the guys who really run things are VERY close, even in the White House, so Obama doesn’t get any goofy ideas, like he did in his first few years in office, that he’s there on some kind of ideological crusade. Bill Daley, one of the guys who really run things, will be constantly at his side to remind him that everything is about power and that idiotic ideology, which is, to this way of thinking, all ideology, just gets in the way.

This second theory dovetails well with the first. Daley had to be made chief of staff so that the real guys can keep a much closer eye on the ingénue in the Oval Office. But Obama’s firing Emanuel and replacing him with Bill Daley would be too direct a statement that the boys in Chicago have placed their puppet in the White House. So this whole Rube Goldberg, Emanuel running for mayor ruse is set up and the naïve Mr. Emanuel, consumed by ambition and the fervent belief, constantly nurtured by the consanguineous media, that an uber-yuppie can be just as tough as any ward boss from the real neighborhoods of Chicago, takes the bait and once again becomes yet another unwitting fall guy for the Daley family.

Do I subscribe to these theories? Let me just say that what I’ll think about, and even find intriguing, and what I’ll believe are two different things.


Harwood Benjamin said...

If Bill Daley gets points for his Ignatius stripes, what is the explanation for Todd Stroeger? Also, I believe Carol Moseley Brown had at least one offspring who did the 1076 shuffle, yet no Iggie love for CMB?

The Pontificator said...


Yes, how does one explain Todd Stroger’s having matriculated at 1076? I suppose this is one of those things families like to sweep under the rug. But Bill Daley brings along with his Ignatius diploma smarts, perspective, reason, moderation, and maturity, qualities that Toddler Stroger possesses not even in modest quantities and which, obviously, even the Jesuits cannot imbue in the unwilling.

I wasn’t aware of one of CMB’s kid's having gone to Ignatius, but it doesn’t surprise me, given 1076’s reputation as the “clout school,” surpassing even DeLaSalle in that category of late. But Carol gets a lot more love from the Quinn household for her good work at LaRabida than she does for having sent at least one kid to Ignatius. But, alas, that is not enough to win over me, or any other clear thinking person.

Thanks for reading and commenting.