White House chief of staff resigns at crucial moment for Obama

White House Chief of Staff William Daley will be replaced by Jacob Lew, President Obama said Monday. The influential post is particularly important in an election year. 

Susan Walsh/AP
President Obama shakes hands with Bill Daley after announcing Daley's resignation as White House Chief of Staff Monday at the White House in Washington. Obama announced Jacob Lew (l.) the administration's current budget director, will replace Daley.

William Daley is leaving his post as White House chief of staff – one of the toughest and most influential posts in Washington – after only a year on the job. 

The change is particularly significant at the beginning of an election year for the president. The chief of staff serves as gatekeeper to the Oval Office and is charged with ensuring that the president’s aides work together smoothly to accomplish his goals and to make sure those accomplishments are skillfully communicated. In an election year, the chief of staff has to make sure the White House staff and the president’s reelection campaign team work together seamlessly.

President Obama said Monday that Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew will take over for Mr. Daley.

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When Daley took the chief of staff’s role in January 2011, the expectation was that he would serve as a bridge to the business community and to Republicans in Congress. But with the president taking a harder line in congressional negotiations as the election nears, Daley’s skills seemed less a match for the job.

Daley had previously announced his intention to leave the White House after the 2012 election. But White House operations were already being reorganized late last year, with Daley yielding day-to-day management to Obama senior adviser Pete Rouse. The move was explained as letting Daley serve as an ambassador for the administration, but it got Washington talking about how secure Daley’s place was.

Standing beneath a portrait of President Lincoln in the State Dining Room Monday, Mr. Obama hailed Daley’s contributions. 

“No one in my administration has had to make more important decisions more quickly than Bill,” the president said. 

He explained Daley’s early departure back to Chicago by saying, “In the end, the pull of the hometown we both love … was too great” and that Daley wanted to spend more time with his children and grandchildren. 

To show there were no hard feelings, the White House announced that Daley would serve as one of the co-chairs of the president’s reelection campaign, which is based in Chicago.

Daley is the son of legendary Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and the brother of recent Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. He served as Commerce secretary under President Clinton, was a banker in the private sector, and joined the Obama administration last year to replace outgoing Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who left to run for mayor of Chicago.  

His replacement, Mr. Lew, is a smart, self-effacing Washington veteran. He will assume the chief of staff’s role after the president’s budget is released at the end of the month.  

A Harvard University and Georgetown law school graduate, Lew was the principal domestic policy adviser to former House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill Jr. He served as Office of Management and Budget director during the Clinton administration, and served as deputy secretary of State for management and resources at the start of the Obama administration.

Lew’s “economic advice has been invaluable, and he has my complete trust not only because of his mastery of the numbers but because of the value behind those numbers” the president said. 

The announcement of a new chief of staff came during a week that got off to an awkward start for the White House. Officials spent part of the weekend countering reports of dissension within the White House based on a new book “The Obamas” by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor. 

The book claims that West Wing officials, including former chief of staff Emanuel and former press secretary Robert Gibbs, as having strained relations with Mrs. Obama. A White House official called the book an "overdramatization of old news.”

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