President Barack Obama has recently chosen businessman William Daley to be his next Chief of Staff. Some liberals have criticized the choice of Mr. Daley as too corporate and too moderate. They say that Mr. Obama should have selected a different person as Chief of Staff.
Mr. Daley indeed is a poor choice for Chief of Staff, although perhaps for a different reason than the above criticism. It is what Mr. Daley represents that makes one uncomfortable with him.
The American Dream is based upon that great premise that everybody can succeed in America, regardless of who their parents were, or the place they were born in, or the color of their skin, or anything else that has no effect on merit. All are created equal, paraphrasing the Declaration of Independence. Anybody can become president, even if their father was a failed alcoholic, or happened to come from Kenya, or worked as a shoe salesman.
William Daley, in many ways, stands out as the opposite of this great ideal. Mr. Daley has succeeded not because of any personal qualities – intelligence, leadership, ambition – but merely because of his last name. Mr. Daley’s father, Richard Daley, famously ruled the city of Chicago for decades and accumulated enormous power and massive political connections. Without those inherited connections, William Daley would not be where he is now.
Take, for instance, Mr. Daley’s job before being appointed Chief of Staff. He was an executive at Morgan Stanley who supervised its Washington lobbying efforts. Here is how Mr. Daley got the job:
He was hired, company officials said, as something of consolation prize to Chicago when Chase, which has its headquarters in New York, was taking over Bank One, which was based in Chicago. Chase executives, including Jamie Dimon, its chairman, wanted to bring in someone with Chicago connections who could smooth over relations with wealthy clients and corporations there.
One Chase official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter, recalled, “A few bankers said we should hire a Bill Daley,” meaning someone with Chicago political connections and clout who could serve as a new public face for Chase.
The primary reason, then, that Mr. Daley got his job was because his father happened to be Mayor of Chicago. Without the last name Daley, William would not be a top executive at a corporate bank. Without that prestigious position, he would not be the president’s Chief of Staff.
This stands in stark contrast to the man who hired Mr. Daley. President Barack Obama rose to power based on his intelligence, his ambition, and his political skill; not because his father incidentally happened to be rich and famous. Indeed, Mr. Obama’s last name is probably more of a liability than an advantage for him.
One should not need to be born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth – to be as lucky as William Daley, in other words – to succeed in this nation. Barack Obama is better than this. Ultimately, America is better than this.