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5 Things to Know About Denis McDonough, Obama's New Chief of Staff 5 Things to Know About Denis McDonough, Obama's New Chief of Staff

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5 Things to Know About Denis McDonough, Obama's New Chief of Staff


President Obama has picked top national security aide Denis McDonough as his next chief of staff. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

President Obama announced a reshuffling of his staff on Friday, picking Denis McDonough as his new chief of staff.

Here are five things to know about McDonough:


Legendary work ethic. As the deputy national security adviser, McDonough was deeply involved on issues ranging from Asia policy, to Afghanistan, to the Arab Spring, to Europe and Latin America. He was among the high-level officials in the Situation Room with Obama as he monitored the May 2011 raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound. Domestic priorities ranging from the budget to gun control to immigration to the budget will dominate Obama’s second-term agenda. Though McDonough has specialized in foreign policy, he brings Capitol Hill seasoning that will be helpful to the chief of staff role. He is a former aide to Sen. Tom Daschle and worked for Obama in his Senate office. He is also known for his legendary work ethic. Former White House Deputy Communications Director Jen Psaki described him as the "hardest worker on the planet." 

Protective of Obama. McDonough has earned a reputation as one of the president’s strongest defenders. He’s been known to ruffle feathers by berating senior Democrats for critiquing Obama publicly and the e-mails he sends in response to such critiques are “legendary,” according to The New York Times. In July 2010, The Times reported that he spent the entirety of a bike ride home from the White House “arguing on the cellphone with a reporter who he believed had mischaracterized an internal administration debate over Iraq policy.”

A favorite with White House staff. McDonough is well liked among White House staff. He is known for leaving thank-you notes for staffers when they have worked hard on a project. Psaki recalls receiving one such note from him for her work on Obama's hectic first overseas trip as president in 2009 when he traveled to London for the Group of 20 before heading to France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Turkey, and Iraq. He is even-tempered and known within the White House as someone who is not a showboater. Those qualities are highly valued by Obama, a fellow Midwesterner who, dating back to his campaign, has sought to keep drama and ego clashes to a minimum on his team.

Athletic. A former star high school football player, McDonough rode a bicycle to work from his Takoma Park home until his wife forbade him from doing so following an accident, according to Bloomberg. The 6-foot-3 McDonough is known for weighing himself regularly to ensure his weight remains below 200 pounds, according to The Times, which likened him to “a Town & Country cover model.”

A Devout Catholic. McDonough is a devout Catholic. He and his wife have three children. He grew up in a family of 11 children, one of whom became a priest. He once told a reporter that he had given up coffee and candy for Lent, according to The Times.

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