A series of tactical blunders, a coziness with Wall Street, and a shifting reelection strategy have made White House Chief of Staff William Daley the wrong man to serve as gatekeeper to the president.
On Monday night, The Wall Street Journal first reported that Daley was relinquishing "day-to-day management of the West Wing to Pete Rouse, a veteran aide to President Obama." Some administration officials are loathe to call it a demotion, but others are not, noting that Daley has simply "not been getting along" with colleagues in the White House.
Bottom line: Aides have confirmed to National Journal, Politico, The New York Times, Fox News, and other news organizations that Rouse will be taking over some of Daley's day-to-day operational role. From here on out, it seems, the nominal chief of staff will serve more of an ambassadorial role, managing relationships with outsiders.
In September, a number of Daley's problems were writ large in extensive profiles in The Huffington Post and Politico. Additionally, White House officials are speaking on background now about the falling out.
Here are the key factors:
A clash with Harry Reid. As Carol Lee at The Wall Street Journal reports on Tuesday, Daley's relationship with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been a nagging problem.
[It] soured during the budget negotiations this year, people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Daley angered Democrats by trying to cut side budget deals with Republicans. He stoked the tension recently by telling a columnist for the website Politico that "both Democrats and Republicans" have made it difficult for Mr. Obama to govern.
Mr. Reid was livid, and Mr. Daley had to call to smooth things over. "When I make a mistake or he thinks I've made a mistake, we talk," Mr. Daley said.
He restricted access to Obama, infuriating aides. Glenn Thrush at Politico reports that Daley's management style was his undoing: "Daley’s brisk corporate style has soured some White House staffers who think he’s pinching Obama’s access to outside opinions at a time when the administration needs fresh insights," he writes. "He didn’t mesh as well as expected with senior adviser David Plouffe--and remained a relative outsider to many of the campaign veterans who make up the core of Obama’s staff. Nor did he go out of his way to endear himself, often shuttering the door to his corner West Wing office--in contrast to both Rouse and Emanuel."
He's the wrong man for Obama's reelection. Ezra Klein writes at The Washington Post: "When you're promising to orient much of the election around your support for financial reform and the Republican Party's opposition to Dodd-Frank, does it really make sense for Daley, an ex-JPMorgan Chase executive who was brought on partly to repair relationships with Wall Street, to lead the effort? Probably not. And so he isn't."
He caved too often to Republican demands. In a September profile of Daley, Jennifer Bendery at The Huffington Post reported that Daley's "too-quick-to-compromise legislative strategy" during talks over the budget in the spring infuriated Democrats. "Daley signed off on billions in cuts that congressional Democrats were, at that point, unwilling to make, according to a source familiar with those negotiations. The party ultimately ended up offering additional cuts beyond that. But as the final deal went through, several Democratic sources said lawmakers were smarting over what they viewed as a preemptive, uncoordinated concession."
The scheduling kerfuffle. A September profile in Politico emphasizes how the scheduling conflict between the White House and Republicans during deficit talks was largely Daley's fault. "Daley, according to sources in both camps, simply assumed that Boehner and company would grant the president’s request as a matter of course, and that organizers of the Politico/NBC News debate would simply move their event an hour back--and garner a larger lead-in audience for good measure." Needless to say, the scheduling conflict was an embarrassment for the White House.