Calling him "an experienced public servant," a "devoted patriot" and "my friend," President Obama named William Daley to serve as his chief of staff on Thursday.
Daley, a fellow Chicagoan who served as commerce secretary under President Clinton, replaces Rahm Emanuel, who left the position to run for mayor of the Windy City.
"Few Americans can boast the breadth of experience that bill brings to this job," Obama told an East Room audience packed with White House staffers. "He's led major corporations. he possesses a deep understanding of how jobs are created and how to grow our economy."
Today's much-anticipated announcement is part of what White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who is leaving his position next month, has called a "major retooling" aimed and bringing in fresh voices and new perspectives from outside of the White House. More announcements will be made about changes to the West Wing staff in the coming weeks. The White House is set to name members of a reshaped economic team tomorrow.
Obama praised Pete Rouse, who had been serving as interim chief of staff and who will become counselor to the president, as did Daley when he spoke briefly after the announcement to thank the president for giving him the opportunity to serve.
"I assure you, Mr. President, as they have done in the last two years that this team will not let you down or the nation," Daley said, referring to the White House staff.
Daley was instrumental in getting the North American Free Trade Agreement passed by Congress and could help usher through the president's free trade agreement with South Korea, a deal the White House says will boost annual exports of American goods by $11 billion, supporting at least 70,000 American jobs.
He also ran Al Gore's unsuccessful 2000 campaign for the presidency and worked most recently as an executive at J.P. Morgan Chase. He is considered a centrist who could help strengthen the White House's relationship with the business community.
The president's pick has already sparked negative reaction from some progressives.
"This was a real mistake by the White House. Bill Daley consistently urges the Democratic Party to pursue a corporate agenda that alienates both Independent and Democratic voters," said Adam Green, co-founder, Progressive Change Campaign Committee at BoldProgressives.org. "If President Obama listens to that kind of political advice from Bill Daley, Democrats will suffer a disastrous 2012."
The liberal organization MoveOn also disapproved of what it called Daley's "close ties to the Big Banks and Big Business" and said his appointment at a time when Wall Street was reporting record profits and middle class Americans were still struggling sent the wrong message to America.
"Americans are looking to the White House for economic plans that will create jobs and reign in Wall Street's excesses, and it's up to Daley to prove that he's not carrying water in the White House for the big banks that took our economy over the cliff," a statement from the group's Executive Director Justin Ruben read in part. "As the President continues to reshuffle his staff, particularly his economic team, it is now more important than ever that he focuses on rebuilding a middle class and developing policies that create more jobs on Main Street, not on Wall Street."
But noted liberal and former presidential candidate Howard Dean expressed support for Daley in an interview on MSNBC.
"He will be conservative by Democratic standards, but he knows Washington," Dean said. "He's not of Washington. He gets what the rest of the country is thinking and I think that is very, very important in this White House."