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Obama goes Irish with chief of staff pick; Says Denis McDonough will ‘always give it to me straight’

By Ed Forry, February 7, 2013


WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has picked a straight-talking Irish-American with roots in Minnesota and South Boston as his new chief of staff. Trusted White House foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough, a man the president described as a close friend, will succeed Jack Lew, whom the president has selected as the next Treasury chief.
``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 as he made the appointment last month.

Obama said that McDonough has played a key role in all the major national security decisions of his presidency, including the end of the war in Iraq, winding down the war in Afghanistan, responses to natural disasters in Haiti and Japan and repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay service members
The president said that McDonough can be tough when he has to be, having been raised in Minnesota in a large family, although there is a Boston connection to that. McDonough reports that during their early married years, his parents lived in South Boston, where they had six of their boys. They then moved to Minnesota where he and four other siblings were born.
Obama teased that the father of three and former St. John’s University (Minnesota) varsity football player “made up for modest talents with extraordinary dedication and a high threshold for pain.’’
Earlier in his career, McDonough 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 Obama’s Senate office. Obama joked that McDonough showed him where the Senate restrooms were and how to get a bill approved.
The selection of McDonough was 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.