I’ve arrived at the third annual Atlantic-sponsored Washington Ideas Forum, a two-day festival of gentle grilling and source-greasing, in which a stage at the Newseum is home to a rotating series of powerful people. The first newsmaker: White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley. Norah O’Donnell of CBS News asked the $10,000 question (adjusted for inflation): You were hired to improve relations with the business community, and how’s it going?
“It’s goin’ great!” said Daley. “Can’t you tell? The business community loves us, and they love our rhetoric!”
Let the record show that this answer inspired boisterous laughter.
After the speech, I asked Daley about Occupy Wall Street. Why not? I asked if it was helpful to the White House, in its current jobs bill campaign, to have economic angst protests in dozens of cities.
“I don’t know if it’s helpful,” he said. “I wouldn’t characterize it that way. Look it: People express their opinions. In the new social network world, they can do it pretty effectively outside the normal way, historically, people have done it. So whether it’s helpful to us, or helpful for people to understand in the political system that there are a lot of people out there concerned about the economy – I know the focus is on Wall Street, but it’s a broader discussion that we’re having.” He pointed to Sam Stein, who’d been asking about supercommittee negotiations. “Part of the thing here, about a balanced approach – I think people want to see fairness in the system.”
Did he like seeing the people in the streets?
“If you go to other parts of the world, you see people who don’t have the opportunity to protest like that. It’s always good to see.”