Obama names Denis McDonough new chief of staff

Deputy national security advisor to replace Jack Lew; US Jewish leader says McDonough shares Obama's commitment to strong US-Israel ties.

January 26, 2013 01:34
2 minute read.
Obama introduces new chief of staff Denis McDonough, Jan 25, 2013

Obama introduces new chief of staff Denis McDonough 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama tapped Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough on Friday to be his new White House chief of staff.

McDonough, who was widely expected to be chosen for the job, will replace Jack Lew, whom Obama nominated to be secretary of the Treasury.

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.”

Obama 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 confidence.”

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 agenda.

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 relationship.”

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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