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William Daley: Obama signals shift to center with pick for chief of staff

Obama brings aboard William Daley, a moderate Democrat and fellow Chicagoan, as his new chief of staff. Daley, seen as a tough but fair manager, could help White House ties to the business community.

By Staff writer / January 6, 2011

President Barack Obama listens as his new White House Chief of Staff William Daley makes a statement in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 6.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

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Washington

President Obama’s selection Thursday of William Daley as his new chief of staff brings a senior, politically experienced figure into the White House inner circle, and sends a clear signal of the administration’s shift toward the center.

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Mr. Daley, who served as commerce secretary under President Clinton, is currently a senior executive at JP Morgan Chase in Chicago, and could help Mr. Obama in his efforts to improve relations with the business community. A scion of the storied Chicago political family, Daley comes from the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, a point that irritates some liberals.

Daley’s selection also invites charges that Obama, also a Chicagoan, is retooling his administration around the city’s political “machine.” But in fact, Obama and Daley don’t know each other well, and it may be fairer to suggest that Daley brings an outsider’s eye to a White House that has been accused of insularity.

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Still, Obama didn’t shy away from the Chicago connection – and Daley family history – in his announcement from the East Room of the White House, calling Daley “an experienced public servant, a devoted patriot, my friend, [and] fellow Chicagoan.”

“He possesses a deep understanding of how jobs are created and how to grow our economy,” Obama said. “And needless to say, Bill also adds a smidgen of awareness of how our system of government and politics works. You might say it is a genetic trait.”

Daley, too, brought his family – and President Kennedy -- into his brief remarks. He recalled a visit to the White House 50 years ago this month with his parents and brothers and sisters “to visit a young president, who went on to show great strength, leadership, and vision in the face of enormous challenges in those times.”

“You, Mr. President, have proven your strength, your leadership, your vision during a most difficult time for our nation and for the world,” Daley continued. “You have also shown through your example that public service is an honorable calling and I am pleased to answer your call.”

Daley replaces interim chief of staff Pete Rouse, who will return to his position as a counselor to Obama. Mr. Rouse took over for Rahm Emanuel, who resigned in September to run for mayor of Chicago. The retiring mayor, Richard M. Daley, is William Daley’s older brother; both are sons of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley.

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