Coming off a difficult Summer for President Obama and headed into what is shaping up to be a difficult re-election season, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley’s role at the White House is changing, sources told ABC News, with senior adviser Pete Rouse assuming an expanded operational and coordination role with White House staff akin to that of a chief operating officer.
White House officials denied that this was in any way a demotion for Daley, insisting that several weeks ago Daley had asked Rouse, a top aide to the president since his election to the Senate in 2004, to expand his role by helping the West Wing run more smoothly, making it more effective and efficient.
Daley made the announcement at a White House staff meeting on Monday.
“As a lot of you know, I’ve asked Pete to take on a greater operational role,” Daley said, according to one attendee, who said Daley described Rouse’s role as that of a “chief operational officer.”
Rouse had been assuming this expanded role for several weeks, and Daley decided to make it official Monday, a source said. This does not mean that Rouse will assume responsibility for running day to day operations at the White House, the source said, insisting that Daley would continue to run the 7:30 a.m. meeting for top senior staff, the 8:15 a.m. expanded senior staff meeting and all meetings when President Obama meets with his senior advisers.
Rouse will oversee and crack the whip on internal communications and operations, the source said.
Coming out of a difficult summer for President Obama and the White House, the president felt that White House operations needed to improve, so Daley set out to try to do that, the source said. So many quickly-developing issues required someone to better monitor how the White House handles each one, making sure that responsibilities are delegated and every division within the White House — the national security staff, communications, the economic team — is keeping all the others informed.
The value in having Rouse assume responsibility for this, sources said, is that Rouse is regarded as a master of operations — smart, effective and low key.
A former vice chairman at JPMorgan Chase, Daley was picked to replace former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who is now the mayor of Chicago, in January. At the time, Rouse had been serving as interim chief of staff. Rouse, the former aide to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-SD, was once known on Capitol Hill as the “101st senator” and is intensely beloved within the West Wing.
Daley was heralded as having skills that could help President Obama, namely ties to the business community, and an ability to work with Republicans as seen during his days as President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Commerce. Those relationships have remained rocky, and Daley vented about some of his frustrations in an interview at the end of October with Politico’s Roger Simon.
“It’s been a brutal three years,” Daley said. “It’s been a very, very difficult three years, an incredible three years. And we are doing all this under the overhang of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. F—k! It wasn’t like all this was happening in good times.”
Daley said that “on the domestic side, both Democrats and Republicans have really made it very difficult for the president to be anything like a chief executive. This has led to a kind of frustration.”
The story of Daley’s new role was first reported this evening by the Wall Street Journal’s Carol Lee.