The unexpected departure of Bill Daley as Barack Obama’s chief of staff and replacement by Jacob Lew, director of the Office of Management and Budget, is a setback for economic policy going into a critical period. But it also presents the president with an opportunity to improve his case for re-election.
Mr Lew will have no difficulty filling Mr Daley’s shoes. He has significant government experience both at OMB and the State Department. However, his departure leaves the OMB, which has primary responsibility for drafting and implementing the federal budget, without a leader at a time when budget issues are unusually sensitive, both economically and politically.
Democratic partisans will question whether Mr Lew, who is known principally as a technocrat, has the political skills to be chief of staff during a presidential election year. While his managerial skills are unquestioned, Mr Lew has never been known as a “politico”. Mr Obama may need to bring in a seasoned political operator in a senior capacity to fulfil that function.
While there is obviously danger in being forced to make a major staff change at an inconvenient time, Mr Obama may benefit by having an opportunity to set a new tone and direction. In Mr Lew he has someone he can rely upon, who is well versed in the issues upon which his re-election will succeed or fail. It could be a blessing in disguise. Continue reading »