In a trade that made a lot of sense for Democrats, Chicago Mayor Richie Daley decided to take a powder as Mayor-for-Life in October 2010, while Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel succeeded Daley as mayor of the big, broken city by the lake.
The player to be named later in the trade was William Daley, Richie’s brother. Bill Daley took Emanuel’s place as chief of staff with the charge to be the White House’s bridge to the business community. The Obama administration was hoping that Daley’s business savvy would help them repair a rocky relationship with big business- and with Republicans.
It’s the kind of forward looking vision that less powerful dictators, like Moammar Gadhafi, could only hope for.
The Daleys, after all, made quite a life for themselves in Illinois peddling influence on both the right and the left, making sure everyone- Democrats and Republicans and “legitimate” businessmen who just happened to own garbage trucks, parking meters and the occasional, hidden, video poker machine- got their share.
But the trade now is officially a bust.
While Rahm cruised to an easy victory as head of the Democrat patronage army that today goes by the name of Chicago, there has been no cruising for Daley or Obama.
The trade was a bust for both Daley and the White House because Daley couldn’t do his job.
Between a GOP Congress that refused to cut deals and an Obama administration that refused to cut regulations, Daley had trouble dividing the spoils for Obama and Republicans. Turns out Congress doesn’t run on garbage trucks and parking meters.
So, the White House announced yesterday that Daley was leaving his post as chief of staff only one year after accepting the post. That he’s leaving in the middle of a presidential election year, tells you all you need to know about Chicago’s view of Obama’s chances on the second go ‘round.
I mean, they don’t call them wise guys for nothing.
Daley likely got tired of the left hand of Obama’s administration not knowing what the other, radical left hand was doing.
By June of last year the Washington Post reported that Daley couldn’t even defend the policies of the Obama administration.
At a meeting with business leaders, Daley could only offer a mea culpa for the administration’s anti-business and anti-jobs policies without promising any remediation.
From the Washington Post:
At one point, the room erupted in applause when Massachusetts manufacturing executive Doug Starrett, his voice shaking with emotion, accused the administration of blocking construction on one of his facilities to protect fish, saying government “throws sand into the gears of progress.”
Daley said he did not have many good answers, appearing to throw up his hands in frustration at what he called “bureaucratic stuff that’s hard to defend.”
“Sometimes you can’t defend the indefensible,” he said.
For Daley, the days of defending the indefensible have drawn to a close sooner rather than later.
While Daley already pre-announced that he would not be returning for a second Obama term, the president was surprised when Daley decided to speed up his departure by a year by handing Obama his resignation last week. Given 24 hours by Obama to think about withdrawing his resignation, Daley stuck to his guns and quit.
For the Obama administration, it’s the latest crisis in a presidency that’s turning out to read more like a mini-series than a history.
I’d like to say that the country will be worse off without Bill Daley in the White House. He at least knew the difference between the defensible and indefensible. But I lived way too long in Chicago to have rose-colored glasses on about Bill, Richie or any other Daley.
The best I can say is that if I had to pick a Chicagoan to leave the White House, it wouldn’t be Daley.