So Bill Daley is heading for the exit:
Chicagoan Bill Daley is stepping down as White House chief of staff and budget director Jack Lew is taking over the president’s team as it heads into a tough election year, senior administration officials say.
Daley gave his letter of resignation to the president in a private meeting in the Oval Office last week, recounting the administration’s successes of his one year on the job and saying it was time for him to return to his hometown of Chicago.
Obama plans to announce the change in leadership in a public event this afternoon. The official shift will take place at the end of this month, giving Lew time to complete the administration’s budget proposal while Daley leads the team through the crafting of the State of the Union address due in two weeks.
Recall that the Daley pick was super popular with Corporate America. It was surely a signal that Obama, like Bill Clinton in 1995, was ready to move to the center after taking a beating in the congressional midterms.
As I wrote for Reuters when Daley got the nod in January 2011:
It might be a stretch to call Daley a potential “dream pick” for Corporate America—but not by much. He was President Bill Clinton’s point man on trade in 1993 and deserves much of the credit for steering the North American Free Trade Agreement through a hostile Congress. As president of SBC Communications from 2001 through 2004, his job was to schmooze top regulators and the Republican Congress. More recently, Daley said Obama—a fellow Chicagoan whom he knows well—made a mistake by focusing on healthcare reform rather than job creation. That’s a view shared by many pragmatic members of the president’s own party.
Except that Obama shifted even further to the left with Daley running the West Wing during the past year. The president a) gave the brush off to his own debt panel, b) offered no long-term debt plan, c) sat on his hands when the NLRB tried to stop Boeing from opening a plant in South Carolina, d) offered same-old, same-old Stimulus 2.0, e) tried to raise taxes on the wealthy/business/entrepreneurs, and f) decided to try and win reelection through a campaign of class warfare. Mission accomplished, Bill.
To me, Jack Lew, who came to the White House from Citigroup, looks like a caretaker replacement for a year when little policymaking is likely to happen. Then again, Lew was a key Clinton White House negotiator in reaching a balanced-budget deal with Republicans during the 1990s. But I am not looking for a repeat of that success in 2012.
On Feb. 13, 2011, Jack Lew, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, appeared on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley and said, “Our budget will get us, over the next several years, to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we’re not adding to the debt anymore; we’re spending money that we have each year, and then we can work on bringing down our national debt.”