The resignation of White House chief of staff Bill Daley must be frustrating to President Obama because it–with some help from the well-timed release of Jodi Kantor’s new book on the Obama White House–reveals the extent to which Obama has succeeded not in creating a no-drama administration (an impossible goal in the Washington of 2012 anyway), but rather in creating the impression of one.
The New York Times tries admirably to parrot the administration line, calling Daley’s departure a “distracting shake-up in a White House that has prided itself on a lack of internal drama, with a tightly knit circle of loyal senior advisers playing a steadying role.” But the paper is forced to give away the game later on in the story, revealing the Obama White House for what it is: the Hotel California of presidential administrations:
While the president said he asked Mr. Daley to reconsider his decision, he did not apply the kind of pressure he brought to bear on Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, who has for several months been eager to return to New York.
The Times is right; Geithner has been begging to leave. And far from being chock full of “loyal senior advisers,” the White House is made up of people trying desperately to get out before their term is up (Daley, Geithner) and comically disastrous hires to which Obama has shown a generous amount of loyalty (Eric Holder, former press secretary Bob Gibbs).
Of course, for some reason, we haven’t seen the rash of newspaper stories on how Obama prizes loyalty over talent and competence, the way we did with George W. Bush. Perhaps the Times will be getting around to that any day now.
The other notable part of the Daley story is that he was brought in because he has ties to the business community and a good reputation in Congress. What the Daley departure signals is he is fully aware his boss’s reelection efforts will be consumed by Obama’s relentless attacks on both. He will be running against the “do-nothing Congress” and “Wall Street greed,” demagoguing the country’s political leadership and its private sector leadership. His slogan, then, will essentially be “It’s literally everyone’s fault but mine!” There was no reason for Daley to stick around as the president spent nearly $1 billion attempting to destroy the reputations of Daley’s friends and associates.
So Daley will go back to Chicago with a no-show title of “campaign co-chair” the administration says they will “probably” bestow upon him. But really, there’s no drama here. President Temperament is fully in control.