The Washington Post notes:
The man in line to become President Obama’s next chief of staff is one of his most loyal and trusted confidants — a rare Washington player, associates said, whose sole objective is protecting and advancing the interests of his boss.
Denis McDonough, 43, is widely known for his pivotal role as deputy national security adviser for the past two years, helping guide the U.S. military drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan and the handling of the attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi,Libya.
But McDonough, who is expected to be named in the next several days, sources close to him say, has had a far-broader portfolio that includes developing political strategy and playing enforcer for those who stray from White House talking points.
More than any of Obama’s other chiefs of staff — Rahm Emanuel, William Daley and Jack Lew, who has been nominated to head the U.S. Treasury — McDonough is an Obama true believer who keeps an eye on burnishing his legacy, said those who have worked with him.
“Denis is one of the president’s closest advisers and friends,” said Michéle Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy who left the Pentagon’s third-ranking job last year. “There are few people who know the president’s mind as well as Denis. He’s been with him through so many phases and situations. He’s very good at having a sense of how the president will view something or react to something or where he’s come down on a given issue.”…
…McDonough’s influence extends beyond national security. A devout Catholic, he has served as something of an informal Obama counselor on religious matters, such as during last year’s debate over the White House’s handling of contraception rules under the new health-care law.
McDonough knows Washington. His primary experience outside the White House was on Capitol Hill, where he was a staffer to former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. That gave him an intricate knowledge of the eccentric rules of power on the Hill and particular expertise in national security, which was his area. It also made him a pragmatist: his catch-phrase is “it is what it is,” which he and other White House staffers use as a kind of realist touchstone in debates. That realism is softened by McDonough’s underlying set of moral convictions that colleagues say derives from his faith as a practicing Catholic. The combination is one Obama came to rely on throughout the first term as McDonough was present in the final, small group debates on most crucial issues in the war on terrorism, Iraq and Afghanistan.
And Michael Sean Winters adds:
This is one of the top jobs in Washington, and McDonough has been a friend to the Church during his tenure at the national Security Council. His brother is a priest who was Vicar General of the Archdiocese of St. Paul.