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Obama names chief of staff

Foreign policy expert a close friend

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McDonough

WASHINGTON – President Obama announced Friday that his new chief of staff is longtime trusted aide Denis McDonough, whom the president described as a close friend unafraid to deliver straight talk.

McDonough has been a longtime foreign policy adviser to the president and is popular among the White House staff. Obama made the announcement in the East Room of the White House with McDonough and outgoing chief of staff Jack Lew, who has been nominated as Treasury secretary, 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.

Obama said 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.

McDonough’s place in Obama’s inner circle was illustrated during the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011. He is among those whose images are captured in a White House photograph in the situation room with Obama and other senior officials watching the raid unfold.

Obama complimented McDonough for being so humble, visiting 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 it done. And that’s the kind of focus, but also the kind of heart, that I want in this White House,” Obama said.

He said McDonough also is tough, having been raised in Minnesota as one of 11 children. And he teased that the father of three and former St. John’s University football player “made up for modest talents with extraordinary dedication and a high threshold for pain.”

Earlier, 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.

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