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William Daley offers window into the West Wing

October 05, 2011|By Peter Nicholas
  • White House Chief of Staff William Daley speaks at the Washington Ideas forum at the Newseum on Wednesday.
White House Chief of Staff William Daley speaks at the Washington Ideas… (Yuri Gripas / Reuters )

He was hired by President Obama at a moment when White House relations with the business community were bad and getting worse. The hope was that William Daley, who had held high-level positions in the corporate world, had the bona fides to reassure a business community that liked neither the rhetoric nor the regulations coming from the Obama administration.

So, how is all that working out? Daley was asked Wednesday, during an appearance at the Washington Ideas Forum.

"It's going great," he said.

The audience, packed into a conference room at the Newseum, began to laugh.

"Can't you tell? Daley continued. "It's really great. No problems. The business community loves us. They love the rhetoric. No problems!"

More laughter.

Daley is one of a handful of top White House officials who agreed to speak at the forum, hosted by The Atlantic, The Aspen Institute and the Newseum. Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak on Thursday.

If anything, the White House's relations with Congress are even worse than its rapport with business.

CBS White House Correspondent Norah O'Donnell, who interviewed Daley, asked about the worrisome state of the White House's dealings with the Hill, which brought the country to the brink of default over the summer.

"I would take some responsibility for the relationship. It's part of my job," Daley said. He added, though, that the news media and the political class also must account for "for the way our political system has gone."

As for the issue dominating Washington – the economy – Daley said he doesn't expect a double-dip recession. But the optimistic forecasts put out early this year haven't panned out, he allowed.

"It's pretty obvious that the expectations of the first half of this year for a stronger second half and a stronger '12 are not going to be fulfilled," Daley said.

Daley gave a window into his life as chief of staff. He arrives at work around 7 and heads home about 12 hours later.

He said he talks "a lot" with his predecessor, Rahm Emanuel, now the mayor of Chicago.

What do the two discuss? a reporter asked after the appearance.

"He gives me his opinion on what's going on here and I give him mine on what he should be doing," Daley said. "He talks politics, he talks economic stuff – what we're doing and what we're not. I tell him the same thing."

A veteran of the Clinton White House, Daley was asked to compare the 42nd and 44th presidents. The stylistic differences run deep, Daley said.

President Clinton was "someone who expressed himself quite a bit and rather vocally," Daley said. "He was very open in emotions and the way he conveyed his feelings to people."

And Obama?

"President Obama, as people have said, is 'No-Drama Obama.' He's very steady, controlled. Constantly searching for more information."

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