"He possesses a deep understanding of how jobs are created and how to grow our economy." That's what Barack Obama said as he announced the appointment of his new chief of staff, William Daley, before a crowd of admiring White House staffers.
It's not hard to understand Obama's reasons for choosing Daley. Businesses are sitting on $1 trillion in cash and refusing to make job-creating investments. They are spooked by the Obama Democrats' vast expansion of the size and scope of government and the prospects of ever more intrusive and expensive regulations being churned out by various federal agencies every day.
Obama hopes that the fact that Daley has held high-level jobs in the private sector will assure them that their fears are unfounded.
But when you take a look at Daley's resume, what you see are positions not in job-creating departments but at the intersection between private firms and governments. He headed a union-owned bank. He was on the board of Fannie Mae. He was a high honcho at the telecom SBC.
Most recently, he has headed Chicago affairs for JPMorgan Chase, whose CEO, Jamie Dimon, is the most politically shrewd of the big finance chief executives. In the financial turmoil of 2008, Dimon obtained Bear Stearns for a song and Washington Mutual at a favorable price. His bank unloaded mortgage-backed securities while Citigroup loaded up on them and, unlike Bank of America, didn't get saddled with the losses of Merrill Lynch.
Daley's public-sector jobs have also been located at the intersection of government and business. In his first term, Bill Clinton hired him to lead the lobbying for the North American Free Trade Agreement, and in his second Clinton appointed him secretary of commerce, where he also pressed for free-trade measures.
You can understand why he has been appointed to the boards of directors of Boeing (heavily dependent on exports and pro-free trade) and Abbott Laboratories (heavily dependent on intellectual property rights and government regulation). And why left-wing bloggers have been denouncing his appointment.
Actually, Daley's views and his background are not so very different from those of the first Obama chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who seems likely to be elected to succeed Richard M. Daley as mayor of Chicago in a few weeks. Emanuel famously recommended an incremental approach on health care; Obama decided to follow Nancy Pelosi's advice, with policy and electoral results that are well known.