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Obama Relies On Daley To Help 'Grow Our Economy'

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson was listening to the president's announcement.

INSKEEP: Today I am proud to announce the appointment of an experienced public servant, a devoted patriot, my friend, fellow Chicagoan, Bill Daley to serve as my chief of staff.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

MARA LIASSON: That's President Barack Obama yesterday, in the East Room, making the single most important move in what aides say is a major retooling of the White House staff. Daley was the commerce secretary in the Clinton administration and he's currently an executive with JP Morgan Chase. That would make him one of those fat cat investment bankers the president once famously criticized. But president Obama explained, Bill Daley is much more than that.

INSKEEP: He's led major corporations. He possesses a deep understanding of how jobs are created and how to grow our economy. And, needless to say, Bill also has a smidgen of awareness of how our system of government and politics works. You might say it is a genetic trait.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOFT LAUGHTER)

LIASSON: Daley, of course, is steeped in Democratic Party politics. He is the brother of current Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley, and the son of former longtime Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley. He referred to that legacy yesterday.

LIASSON: Fifty years ago this month, I visited the White House with my parents and my brothers and sisters, to visit a young president who went on to show great strength, leadership and vision in the face of enormous challenges in those times. You, Mr. President, are proving your strength, your leadership, your vision during a most difficult time for our nation and for the world.

LIASSON: Daley's appointment was criticized by liberal groups but hailed by the Chamber of Commerce, one of the president's most powerful opponents. Ken Duberstein, who was chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan, says the choice of Daley meets a lot of the president's needs, including reaching out to Republicans in Congress.

LIASSON: He has appointed somebody who is experienced, well versed in the tribal politics of Washington as well as Chicago, somebody who has been around the track and who will do, not only the White House staff job, but also be a very public spokesman for the administration.

LIASSON: And says Duberstein, Daley's ability to coordinate seamlessly with the reelection effort is another key element in his selection.

LIASSON: Bill can reach all the power players on Capitol Hill, so it's really a two-for in the sense of building bridges to the business community, building bridges to the people on Capitol Hill, and helping President Obama build a bridge back to the American people, having been spanked pretty hard in the last November election.

LIASSON: Mara Liasson, NPR News, the White House.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. $00.00 Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.