As many are pointing out, the hire fits a pattern emerging in the reshuffle: the president is dipping into the past for experience, and drawing it mostly from Clinton White House vets. Ezra Klein summarized the appointments in a post from yesterday and noted how they have run against the expectations of some.
Obama’s personnel decisions have shown a strong preference for prior government experience. William Daley, who was named chief of staff earlier today, is a former Secretary of Commerce. Jack Lew, who replaced Peter Orszag as head of the Office of Management and Budget, held the same position under President Clinton. Robert Gates, who leads the Defense Department, was a holdover from George W. Bush. Larry Summers, who Sperling is replacing, was Treasury Secretary under Clinton. And the list goes on. Expectations that Obama would begin to turn to people whose primary experience was outside government have not, thus far, been borne out in his staff shakeup.
Daley’s hiring and the pattern of White House hires into which it fits has many suggesting the president is tracking rightward; he has taken the message of the election and decided to play nice with his political rivals and with big business. Ambinder is quick to point out that Daley is as unfriendly with the left as many are claiming.
Daley is not a liberal. He joined the board of Third Way, a think tank staffed by ex-Clintonites, last year, saying at the time that “advancing moderate ideas, challenging orthodoxies, and building a big tent political movement that can attract an enduring majority. Their views are right for both campaigning and governing: pro-market, strong on security, and seeking common ground on culture issues.”
The left’s agenda, he said, “has not won the support of a majority of Americans — and, based on that recognition, we must steer a more moderate course.”
And the Wall Street Journal’s Elizabeth Williamson’s report on the appointment focuses almost solely on the move as an olive branch to business. How’s this lede?
President Barack Obama put into overdrive Thursday his fledgling efforts to call a truce with American business.
Citing the turning point in this “fledgling effort” as the re-ignition of efforts to move ahead on the South-Korea free-trade agreement, Williamson explains why Obama needed to make a hire like Daley.
Mr. Obama has compelling reasons to repair relations with corporate America. Unemployment remains stubbornly high. There’s little likelihood of significant new stimulus spending from Congress or big new moves by the Federal Reserve to pump money into the economy.
That means the key to economic growth—and Mr. Obama’s re-election prospects—could lie in corporate treasuries. U.S. non-financial businesses are sitting on nearly $2 trillion in cash and liquid assets, the most since World War II, and Mr. Obama wants them to use it to create more U.S. jobs.
Interestingly, Matt Bai at the Times bucks the beltway wisdom by arguing that there isn’t much to be read into the new appointments, at least as far as changes go. Contrary to those who argue the president is moving away from the left, Bai argues in today’s paper that Daley’s installation is an ideological continuation.
Mr. Daley’s politics are essentially indistinguishable from those of the man he replaces, his fellow Chicagoan and protégé Rahm Emanuel (who, like Mr. Daley, got rich working for an investment bank). Both men are said to be pragmatists who care less about political theory than about getting things done, and progressives were never any happier with Mr. Emanuel than they are with the choice of his successor.
Similarly, Mr. Sperling, who worked for Goldman Sachs before joining the Obama administration, may fairly be called a centrist thinker, but he’s certainly no more of a centrist than his immediate predecessor, Lawrence H. Summers, another veteran of the Clinton administration who also spent a profitable interlude on Wall Street.
In other words, if anything, this week’s appointments would seem to represent a continuation of the ideological course Mr. Obama has been following since before he took the oath of office, rather than any substantive shift in his worldview.