President Barack Obama announced Friday that his new chief of staff will be long-time trusted aide Denis McDonough, whom the president has described as a close friend unafraid to deliver straight talk.
McDonough has served as a long-term foreign policy adviser to President Obama, and is popular among the White House staff. The announcement was made in the East Room of the White House, with both McDonough and outgoing chief of staff Jack Lew at his side.
"I know you'll always give it to me straight, as only a friend can, telling me not only what I want to hear, but more importantly, what I need to hear to make the best possible decisions on behalf of the American people," Obama told McDonough.
According to the President, McDonough has played a key role in all major national security decisions during Obama’s first term, including the end of the war in Iraq, the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, American responses to natural disasters in Haiti and Japan, and the repeal of the military's ban on openly gay service members.
McDonough’s exclusive and important place within Obama's inner circle was best illustrated during the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011; he is among those whose images were captured in White House photographs while watching the raid unfold in the situation room with Obama.
McDonough previously worked as a foreign policy specialist in Congress, including as a senior foreign policy adviser to former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., before moving to then-Senator Obama's office.
While he stated that McDonough is a tough figure, Obama also complimented McDonough for being humble, mentioning his visits to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and wounded warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, without fanfare or cameras to learn about the needs of the troops.
"Then he comes back here to the White House, and he gets the job done. And that's the kind of focus, but also the kind of heart, that I want in this White House," Obama said.
The selection of McDonough was even met by a rare show of approval from a prominent Republican: South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who described Obama's new chief of staff as a smart, steady hand respected by members of both parties.
"President Obama's decision to choose Denis McDonough was wise and I think he will serve the nation well," Graham said in a statement.
McDonough's new role was previously filled by Rahm Emanuel, William Daly and Pete Rouse, as interim chief of staff, before Lew.