President Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Bill Daley, told Andrea Mitchell Reports Monday that the importance of one-on-one talks between Obama and Speaker John Boehner, like the one they engaged in on Sunday, can’t be overstated if a fiscal deal is to be reached.
“It really is the president and the Speaker who will do this deal,” Daley told Mitchell. “Having seen the two of them in the past when we went through the 2011 negotiations, they have respect for each other. They like each other. They will be able to do a deal together.”
Daley served as President Obama’s Chief of Staff during the 2011 debt-ceiling showdown. The debacle brought the country within days of default and resulted in the country’s first credit downgrade by Standard & Poor.
Congress has three weeks to strike a fiscal deal – otherwise a series of severe, automatic spending cuts are scheduled to take place. “We need this to be done shortly to give the country and the world confidence that our system can work again,” Daley told Mitchell.
Daley also commented on one of the most anxiously-awaited cabinet nominations: that of Secretary of State. Of Susan Rice, the current U.N. Ambassador frequently thought to be a front-runner for Hillary Clinton’s successor, Daley said, “She is extremely well qualified. The president knows that. He is not going to be forced into a decision by virtue of the chatter that's out there in the street and the politics, and I think he is going about it in a deliberate way.” Rice’s critics have threatened to de-rail her confirmation process, if nominated, over statements she made to Sunday talk shows in the days following the September 11 Benghazi embassy attack, when she said preliminary intelligence showed the violence was the result of a spontaneous protest rather than a pre-planned terrorist operation. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair John Kerry is also considered a front-runner.
Since then, criticism has been hurled at Rice almost daily. Asked whether the delay to name Clinton’s successor is hurting Rice as a possible nominee, Daley told Mitchell, “Once a nominee is named, you basically go into a very silent period. So if either Ambassador Rice or Senator Kerry were nominated, they would have to go into a very quiet period” until confirmation hearings took place, which Daley said wouldn't take place until January. “There would be no comment, no visibility by either one of them. So I don't think that's so much of an issue because neither one of them would be out there doing some defense of themselves or some arguments against them.
Daley indicated that Clinton would be willing to stay on as Secretary of State until her successor is confirmed. “[Obama] has a lot of time because both of these people, Senator Kerry and Ambassador Rice, are fully vetted,” Daley said. “They've been around for a while. People know them. They know the sort of things they've said and the records pretty are clear and public, so either one of them can move pretty quickly through the process because they both have been vetted and been so high profile and public over a long period of time.”
Daley praised Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State and her prior political career. “She has done a remarkable job, and she's done it in a way after a very tough campaign in 2008 that really is a best of what American politics can be about and should be about,” Daley said. “That is, after a tough election, you move on to do what's right for the country, and she's done that.” Daley served as Commerce Secretary during Bill Clinton’s presidency.
“It was a sacrifice to leave the Senate,” Daley said. “Some people would say that you have a lot more freedom in the Senate, and it's obviously a lot easier life than being Secretary of State. She did it for the country, and I think that's remarkable and should still be admired and thanked by the American people.”
As for a possible 2016 face-off for the Democratic Presidential nomination between Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, Daley said there’s no limit to Clinton’s potential but “she deserves time to reflect on things and enjoy life.” He said Biden “is also extremely well liked [and] well known throughout the Democratic party” and would be a strong primary candidate.