WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama tapped Deputy National Security Adviser
Denis McDonough on Friday to be his new White House chief of
McDonough, who was widely expected to be chosen for the job, will
replace Jack Lew, whom Obama nominated to be secretary of the
In fact, the president began his remarks at the event
introducing McDonough as his next chief of staff by saying, “Welcome to the
announcement of one of the worst kept secrets in Washington.”
referred to McDonough as an “indispensable member of my national security team,”
noting that he has “played a key role in every major national security decision
of my presidency.” He listed as examples the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan,
dealing with disasters in Haiti and Japan and the repeal of the prohibition on
gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.
McDonough has worked
with Obama since the latter’s days in the US Senate, including on the
presidential campaign and during the transition, making him, in Obama’s words,
“one of my closest and most trusted advisers.”
In choosing McDonough,
Obama continues a pattern of selecting key loyalists and longtime associates for
top administration jobs rather than reaching outside his inner circle as he did
in his first term.
“Denis McDonough is a fiercely loyal, very smart and
creative person,” said Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington
Institute for Near East Policy.
“Clearly the president wants someone with
whom he is familiar and already had built up a legacy of
Though McDonough has served at the National Security Council
for years, Satloff indicated that it was difficult to distinguish his foreign
policy views from that of his boss, since he has worked so faithfully on Obama’s
Still, many of the biggest priorities on the president’s, and
therefore McDonough’s desk, will be in the domestic realm. In addition to
continuing to deal with the economy and a looming deficit showdown, the agenda
Obama laid out at his inauguration focused on issues such as entitlements,
education, immigration and equal rights.
On Israel, a prominent Jewish
leader in Washington described McDonough as having “steadfastly and vigorously
defended the administration’s Middle East policies.”
William Daroff, vice
president for public policy for The Jewish Federations of North America, said
that conversations with McDonough over the years have made clear that “he has no
doubt about the commitment of President Obama to a strong US-Israel
Daroff noted that he looks forward to working with the
chief of staff on issues of concern to the Jewish community not just to do with
Israel, but also domestic concerns like homeland security funding and
maintaining tax deductions for charitable contributions.
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