Obama's New Chief Of Staff A Popular Choice At White House

Jan 25, 2013
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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

President Obama does not need the Senate's say-so to replace his chief of staff, Jack Lew. And today, the president confirmed what he called one of the worst kept secrets in Washington. He's chosen long time advisor Denis McDonough for the job. Meanwhile, Lew isn't going far. He's been nominated as Treasury secretary. NPR's Scott Horsley reports it's all part of the musical chairs game that marks the beginning of Obama's second term.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Denis McDonough has been a key member of the president's national security team. More importantly, he's also a close friend and trusted confidante. The veteran congressional staffer has played that role since Obama first came to Washington as a freshman senator.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: He, you know, was able to show me where the restrooms were and, you know, how you passed a bill. I should point out that even then, Denis had gray hair. I've been trying to catch up to him. But at that time, I relied on his intellect and his good judgment and that has continued ever since.

HORSLEY: McDonough can be tough, Obama says, a product of growing up as one of 11 children in Stillwater, Minnesota. But he's also a good listener whose low-key style fits the president's own. His promotion was a popular choice with the White House team he'll be supervising. The announcement was met with an extended round of applause from the assembled staff.

OBAMA: Denis is still the first to think about a colleague or to write a handwritten note saying thank you, to ask about your family. That's the spirit that I wanted in this White House.

HORSLEY: The White House announced a series of other personnel moves today and like many of the president's second term appointments, most involved shuffling people around who are already part of the team. At this point, the president seems at least as concerned with familiarity as he is with bringing in fresh blood. While some loyal staffers are getting new titles, others are leaving the White House.

Today was the last day on the job for Obama's top political advisor and reelection guru, David Plouffe. Were it not for him, Obama said, I probably wouldn't be here. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.