Howard Dean endorses Daley for chief of staff, rips White House

Former DNC chairman and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said Wednesday that William Daley would be a “huge plus” for the Obama administration if he is tapped to be the president’s new chief of staff.

Dean praised Daley as someone “who knows Washington, but he also is not of Washington.” At the same time, the former presidential candidate excoriated Obama’s senior staff.

At a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, Dean refused to single out any administration officials for criticism, but said Obama would be better served by staff that has not spent so much time in Washington.

Noting that many officials are “either out of the White House or going,” Dean blasted Obama’s current officials who he says have treated the left wing of the Democratic Party with “contempt.”

“As they say, don’t let the door hit you in the you-know-what on the way out,” Dean said.

The comments came as senior adviser David Axelrod prepares to depart for Chicago to begin Obama’s reelection campaign and amid reports that press secretary Robert Gibbs might be leaving.

Dean acknowledged that he has big differences with Daley, who according to Dean has “been moving to the right over the last five to 10 years,” but he said that Daley is “a grown-up who doesn’t treat people like they don’t know anything and you know everything.”

The 2004 presidential candidate’s comments came in response to a question about Obama’s relationship with the “professional left,” a term Gibbs used in an interview with The Hill last year to describe liberal commentators who criticize Obama.

When pressed for specific names, Dean refused to say whether he was talking about Gibbs, Axelrod or former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

Dean said that Daley would bring an “adult” mindset to the White House in dealing with liberals in the party.

“Disrespect breeds disrespect,” Dean said.

The former Vermont governor appeared to be endorsing Daley for the position, vacated by Emanuel who left last year to run for mayor of Chicago, but he said he thought John Podesta would be the best choice for the position.

Despite his statements, Dean said he will not run against Obama in 2012, and it would be “foolish” for another Democrat to try.

Dean also warned that on big four deficit drivers — Social Security, Medicare, defense spending and taxes — Obama should tread lightly unless Republicans show they are serious about cutting all four.

It would be a “huge mistake” for Obama to deal with Republicans on their terms, Dean said.

“He’ll get whip-sawed just like he did the last two years,” Dean said.

Over the course of the breakfast, Dean tackled a number of topics, including healthcare and the Republican Tea Party that was officially swept into power on Wednesday.

Dean warned House Speaker-elect John Boehner (R-Ohio) that he will have trouble getting the Tea Party in line, describing Boehner’s new position as “the biggest hot seat in Washington.”

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