Bill Daley Blames Sarah Palin for Obama’s Mess

Bill Daley (Scott Olson / Getty)
Scott Olson / Getty

Former Obama White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley has ripped into former Alaska governor Sarah Palin in an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled, “The GOP’s dysfunction all started with Sarah Palin.”

Daley, brother of former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, was pushed out of the White House after a year and later mounted an abortive run for Illinois governor. Now, he has emerged from the wilderness with an unprovoked political attack on Palin.

The timing of the attack might seem odd. Palin is not running for office, nor does she hold office. The news “hook” is a comment by Republican frontrunner Donald Trump to the effect that Palin is “a special person” that he might appoint to his Cabinet.

Actually, Trump could do far worse. Palin has a strong grasp of the delicate balance between fossil fuel development and environmental stewardship. She would be a good choice for Secretary of the Interior.

But Daley is not really concerned about the next Republican administration. His aim is to attack the Republican grassroots as a way of knocking Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, and others.

At a time when Democrats are seriously debating whether socialism or capitalism is a better economic system, and Hillary Clinton is kowtowing to the left on every issue from the Keystone pipeline to free trade, Bill Daley claims the conservative base is out of touch with reality.

To borrow a well-worn, but appropriate cliché: Daley is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.

For one thing, he knows nothing of the history of Palin’s rise. Palin was a natural choice for John McCain in 2008 for two reasons. First, she had built a track record of bucking party leadership on issues of transparency, as McCain had. And second, she had the potential to attract female voters after Barack Obama shafted Clinton for Joe Biden.

Daley recites a familiar list of left-wing punchlines about Palin and accuses Republican leaders of failing to speak up against her. He has his facts wrong: they began stabbing her in the back before a single ballot had been cast.It did not matter that Palin had electrified the party convention and thrashed Biden in the vice-presidential debate. She was a convenient scapegoat for a campaign that flubbed McCain’s message on the economy in a moment of crisis.

There is one kernel of truth in Daley’s argument, which is that Palin continued to inspire conservatives after 2008. Daley counts that against her, blaming Palin for Christine O’Donnell (whom she had endorsed in the primary) and for Todd Akin (whom she had not). He overlooks the fact that she backed dozens of other successful candidates around the nation. (Perhaps he would prefer to forget that his own party was thrashed in 2010 and again in 2014.)

It is worth asking what role Daley himself played in creating Washington’s dysfunction. He was Obama’s right-hand man during the debt ceiling crisis of 2011.

As Bob Woodward noted later in The Price of Politics, newly-elected Speaker John Boehner had wanted to reach a “grand bargain.” But Obama blew up the negotiations by demanding $400 billion more in taxes. The result: the budget sequester, and an endless series of debt ceiling confrontations.

Daley soon left the White House, and has spent years in the wilderness. Perhaps he is looking for a new career as a columnist. More likely, he is angling for a return to power on the Clinton bandwagon.

This week, as Republicans elect a new Speaker and GOP candidates debate anew, the Democrats are consolidating around a confirmed liar. In Congress, they are still run by the failures of years past–Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

Now that’s dysfunctional.


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