Obama's New Chief of Staff is 'The Wolf' of Pulp Fiction

Obama selected William Daley with hopes of regaining traction with the political middle.


In Quentin Tarantino's 1994 opus Pulp Fiction, two hitmen—portrayed by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson—find themselves in a pickle after accidentally shooting of a colleague on a California freeway. Frantic, Jackson's character phones his gangster boss, pleading for help. Not to worry, says the boss, “Wait for The Wolf—who should be coming directly.” The Wolf—played brilliantly by Harvey Keitel—arrives on the scene, briskly barks directions and coolly cleans up the mess.

Enter William “The Wolf” Daley—Barack Obama's own hope for a swift and smooth political course correction.

A long-time member of the Chicago political machinery, Daley, who served most recently as Midwest Chairman of JP Morgan Chase and formerly as Commerce Secretary under President Clinton, was considered too moderate and business friendly for Obama 1.0. After a self-admitted “shellacking” at the ballot box in 2010, however, Obama rapidly needed to steer his ship starboard if he entertained any hope of reelection. Obama selected Daley as the new White House chief of staff with hopes of regaining traction with the political middle. [See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]

Only one day after accepting the position, Daley is, apparently, already living up to his Wolf-like reputation for alacrity. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reportedly desired to stay in the West Wing as counselor to the president. No dice, said Daley. And Gibbs' two deputies, both long rumored to replace him? The idea was quashed with the nod of a Daley head. The Wolf supposedly views a female press secretary as a solution to that problem. Perhaps most stinging to Obama personally, Daley insisted that he—not the Obama family's long time consigliere Valerie Jarrett—serve as the White House's liaison to the business community.

Whether Daley can resurrect the Obama administration from the largest government intervention since the New Deal remains to be seen. So, too, does Daley's weight with the business community and independent voters, although both The Wall Street Journal and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have commented positively on Daley's appointment. To many conservatives, Daley simply fills the administration's much-needed role of “crony capitalist” or “limousine liberal” necessary for political triangulation. To liberals, Daley is a “Wall Street sell-out” who does not represent the Hope and Change they elected in 2008. There is some consensus, however, that a more moderate hand at the tiller will deflate the over-handed policies implemented thus far by the Obama Administration. One can't help but note the similarity to the early Clinton years in which the strategic plan seemed to be “the kids get him elected, then the adults come in to govern.” [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on Obama.]

The essential question remains: how much will Obama rely on Daley's counsel, which may, at many times, be hard to stomach for a man who supposedly dislikes dissent?

One thing is certain. If he is to succeed, Daley should look Obama in the eye and crib from Harvey Keitel's Pulp Fiction line: “I'm Bill Daley. I solve problems.”

  • See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.
  • Check out a roundup of political cartoons on Obama.
  • Follow the money in Congress.