Commentary Magazine


Topic: Pete Rouse

Did Turf War End Daley’s WH Job Early?

There was much speculation in January about the reason behind the sudden departure of President Obama’s chief of staff, Bill Daley. As a Catholic, Daley might have been especially uncomfortable playing such a high-profile role in an administration in open conflict with the church after Obama refused to back off a new requirement forcing Catholic institutions to cover birth control in their health care plans. Or it might have been, as I wrote at the time, that Daley was brought in for his ties to the business community, which had just become the administration’s new favorite target, and Daley was put in an uncomfortable and unfair position.

But now, according to Glenn Thrush’s new ebook on the Obama re-election effort, evidence is emerging that Daley left because Obama gave him specific instructions on how to do his job, and Daley followed those instructions… too well? From the book:

The president’s only complaint about [Peter] Rouse’s tenure as temporary chief of staff in late 2010 (admittedly, a big one) was that too many papers and people were making it through Rouse’s filter to the Oval Office, several current and former White House aides told me.

Rouse had let the president become far more accessible than he wanted, and he was probably spending too much time on unnecessary paperwork and the like. So Daley did the opposite, but ended up at the other extreme:

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There was much speculation in January about the reason behind the sudden departure of President Obama’s chief of staff, Bill Daley. As a Catholic, Daley might have been especially uncomfortable playing such a high-profile role in an administration in open conflict with the church after Obama refused to back off a new requirement forcing Catholic institutions to cover birth control in their health care plans. Or it might have been, as I wrote at the time, that Daley was brought in for his ties to the business community, which had just become the administration’s new favorite target, and Daley was put in an uncomfortable and unfair position.

But now, according to Glenn Thrush’s new ebook on the Obama re-election effort, evidence is emerging that Daley left because Obama gave him specific instructions on how to do his job, and Daley followed those instructions… too well? From the book:

The president’s only complaint about [Peter] Rouse’s tenure as temporary chief of staff in late 2010 (admittedly, a big one) was that too many papers and people were making it through Rouse’s filter to the Oval Office, several current and former White House aides told me.

Rouse had let the president become far more accessible than he wanted, and he was probably spending too much time on unnecessary paperwork and the like. So Daley did the opposite, but ended up at the other extreme:

He scrapped Emanuel’s open door to the chief of staff and canceled an early-morning meeting that gave mid-level staffers an opportunity to air their opinions…. He also angered [Harry] Reid and other Hill leaders by delegating subordinates to field their calls.

Thrush says that these might have been pardonable sins but for Daley’s “biggest misstep”: alienating Valerie Jarrett and Alyssa Mastromonaco, Obama’s scheduler. He also cut the well-liked Jen Psaki out of the loop and in response, Psaki left the White House (though she serves as a press secretary with the president’s re-election campaign). Getting on Jarrett’s bad side seems to have been the last mistake Daley was permitted to make, and Obama’s inner circle, feeling frozen out by Daley, returned the favor.

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