Barack Obama named William Daley his new Chief of Staff yesterday. While Daley has held many titles — like Commerce Secretary for Bill Clinton — he is arguably best known, at least in Chicago, as brother and son of Richard M. Daley and Richard J. Daley, who have combined to serve as Chicago’s Mayor for 42 of the 55 years. No chief of staff pick says Chicago more than a Daley, and that includes departed Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel who will almost certainly be Chicago’s next mayor. So it’s not surprising that conservatives like Grover Norquist have attacked the choice. “If everybody sitting in the White House is from a 10-mile radius of Chicago, it gives you a skewed view of how the country works,” Norquist told the Chicago Tribune’s Katherine Skiba and John Byrne. “And then they sit there and wonder why the country doesn’t agree with what they’re doing and what they’re saying.”
I think Norquist is partly right — Daley’s views are borne out of his Chicago experience. But which Chicago is Daley coming from? Eric Lipton of the New York Times reports that the Chicago Daley knows is the home of the city’s biggest corporations — he’s been Midwest head for J.P. Morgan Chase, a lobbyist for Boeing, and a board member for global drug company Abbot Laboratories. In contrast to Barack Obama, the Democratic Party, and most Chicago residents, these companies have fought against financial regulatory reform, cutting Pentagon waste, and health care reform.
Daley’s Chicago is not that of, for example, a potential chief of staff like Luis Gutierrez who could give the perspective of urban Latino residents of modest incomes. It’s not the Chicago of Jesse Jackson, Jr. who could tell the White House how a policy plays in poor, deeply segregated black neighborhoods. It’s the Chicago of corporate movers-and-shakers in downtown glass and steel skyscrapers who worry that change in government will stifle their annual profits. Daley is widely praised as a great manager — probably the most important attribute in a chief of staff. But he is not likely to lend special insight into what most Chicago residents (or many other Americans) want out of the Obama administration.