Updated 1/6/10 – 5:55 p.m. CHICAGO (CBS) — President Barack Obama has tapped William Daley, a former U.S. Commerce Secretary and younger brother to Mayor Richard M. Daley, as his next chief of staff.
Obama introduced William Daley as his top aide Thursday afternoon at the White House, calling him “an experienced public servant, a devoted patriot, my friend and fellow Chicagoan.”
Daley called it an “extreme honor” to join the Obama administration.
As CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, it was a proud day for the entire Daley family. But all week, William Daley was very careful not to upstage Obama. Thursday morning, even after sources confirmed he was being named White House chief of staff, Daley said he wouldn’t say anything until the President’s announcement.
Daley spoke for just 80 seconds, before leaving the podium and trying, though in the end failing, to let the President exit first.
Daley’s first stint in Washington didn’t start nearly as well, as he fainted just before being sworn in as President Bill Clinton’s Commerce Secretary.
It was the heat of the room, officials later said, not the emotion of the moment. And he recovered quickly.
After all, as he said Thursday, it wasn’t his first rodeo, recalling how 50 years ago this month, he visited the White House with his family after John F. Kennedy was elected president.
Kennedy, “went on to show great strength, leadership and vision in the face of enormous challenges in those times,” Daley said.
“You, Mr. President, have proven your strength, your leadership, your vision, during a most difficult time for our nation and for the world,” he added. “You have also shown through your example that public service is an honorable calling and I am pleased to answer your call.”
Ironically, Daley’s older brother — now Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley — didn’t make that 1961 trip to the White House because his father — then Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley — made him stay at home in Chicago to study for a biology test.
Mayor Daley has joked that he should have made the trip anyway, because he didn’t do well on the test despite staying home to study.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s John Cody: Mayor Daley’s Reaction
It might have been at that moment visiting Kennedy, but more likely during his first campaign stint with Jimmy Carter, that William Daley got the bug to run campaigns and advise candidates, something he’s done for decades.
“He’s one of the shrewdest, sharpest political minds that I know,” political consultant Rick Jasculca said. “The guy just has a great instinct for the right thing to do politically.”
But the Daley family name and family home are sure to draw the ire of Washington insiders.
Even before Obama made the news official, critics were saying that having William Daley as chief of staff would install a “Chicago mafia” in the White House.
Mayor Daley shrugged off that criticism, noting that it’s common for presidents to appoint aides from their home states.
“(President George W. Bush) brought people from Texas. John F. Kennedy brought people from Massachusetts. Richard Nixon brought people from California. Ronald Reagan brought people from California. Jimmy Carter brought people from Georgia. Bush brought people from Texas. Clinton brought people from Arkansas,” Daley said. “There’s nothing wrong with it. Every president has done it. So I don’t know why we’re looking at the Chicago group. They used to have the Texas group, the Georgia group, down the line. They’re all there. You bring people you’re comfortable with.”
William Daley’s appointment represented the most significant move in a far-reaching and ongoing staff shakeup that included the departure of Obama’s press secretary and several key deputies and economic advisers. It came the day after Republicans officially assumed control of the House and increased their numbers in the Senate.
Daley, who served as commerce secretary for President Bill Clinton, offers criteria Obama wants for the new environment in Washington: an outsider’s perspective, credibility with the business community, familiarity with the ways of the Cabinet and experience in navigating divided government.
“Few Americans can boast the breadth of experience that Bill brings to this job,” Obama said. In addition to serving on Clinton’s cabinet, Daley is a veteran political manager, a prominent supporter of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, a member of his transition team and — for the past several years — Midwest Chairman for J.P. Morgan Chase.
Obama also joked that Daley had “a smidgen of awareness” of how government works, saying “you might say it is a genetic trait.” Daley’s older brother, Richard M. Daley, has been mayor of Chicago since 1989. His father, Richard J. Daley, was also mayor of Chicago for 22 years from the 1950s to the 1970s. Another brother, John Daley, is a longtime Cook County commissioner.
William Daley replaces interim chief of staff Pete Rouse, who took over for Rahm Emanuel when he left the White House to run for mayor of Chicago.
To some, William Daley is a major upgrade over Emanuel.
“I think he is the perfect combination of business acumen and having a heart and a soul,” Chicago mayoral hopeful Gery Chico said. “And he’s a Chicagoan. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a true Chicagoan, as chief of staff to the President of the United States, help us bring back resources to build our city?”
A dig at Emanuel’s legal battle over whether he meets the residency requirements to be on the ballot? You bet.
Chico predicted that Daley would be able to bring federal funding to Chicago that the city didn’t get with Emanuel working at the White House.
“Rahm Emanuel didn’t make it happen. Let’s just be blunt about it. He didn’t make it happen. I have confidence in Bill Daley understands what Chicago is about and he knows where he comes from,” Chico said.
But Mayor Daley wasn’t so sure his brother would make a difference in federal funding for Chicago, although he joked “I’m praying” it would.
Emanuel wasn’t available after the announcement was made, but earlier in the day he called William Daley a friend and very capable of doing the job.
Daley joins David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett in the White House heading up the Chicago gang Washington loves to hate.