Bill Daley on being WH chief of staff: 'Constant battle'

April 25, 2012 4:28:00 PM PDT
For the first time since leaving the White House, Bill Daley is sharing new details about his turbulent year as chief of staff.

Daley resigned in January, about a year after taking the job.

Unlike another Chicagoan who worked as White House chief of staff, Daley returned home without a set agenda. Three months after leaving Washington, he looked rested as he remembered his year trying to manage non-stop crises at the White House.

"So you've got to, kinda make quick judgments and it's a constant battle," said Daley.

Two days after Daley was appointed President Obama's chief of staff in the depths of the recession, Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot in an assassination attempt . Then days later, the so-called Arab spring took hold in Egypt and Tunisia. Weeks later, an earthquake and tsunami caused a nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan. And in May of 2011, Daley was in the Situation Room with the president as Navy Seals shot and killed Osama bin Laden.

"I think probably it was the biggest moment of my life, in a professional sense, of being part of history and seeing justice brought to a fellow who brought such pain, anguish and turmoil not only to the United States and so many people here but very much the world and his own people," he said.

Daley remembers his 12 months as top White House aide as arguably the most turbulent year of the Obama presidency. It was hoped the moderate former commerce secretary could reach out to the new Republican majority in the House.

"The political shift that had happened in November of '10 was not just about Republicans getting control of the House but a very different dynamic even within their caucus of who was driving the bus," Daley said.

A low point was last summer's debt ceiling debacle. Daley says his failure to get a deal with Republicans had nothing to do with his January resignation, which he says was all about election year politics.

"Everybody knew that at some point in '12, the campaign takes over," he said.

And now that he's a private citizen, any plans to run for public office in Illinois?

"You can't win by trying to answer that," Daley said. "You can't win saying no, under no, no how, no way, no nothing ? I have no plans whatsoever, right now, to do anything public."

Millionaire Daley, a former Midwest chairman at JP Morgan Chase, says he's still trying to determine his next step in the private sector. He thinks Rahm Emanuel, his White House predecessor, was doing a "very good job" as mayor of Chicago.