It's apparent that the president doesn't want too many people surrounding him who are going to disagree with much of anything he says. He just named a loyalist to serve as his chief of staff.
By selecting McDonough, Obama is opting for the familiar: a trusted aide who's been at his side since the 2008 campaign and is credited with keeping the administration's internal wheels turning smoothly on foreign policy issues.
But McDonough brings less experience than his predecessors with another typical part of the job: fielding sometimes angry salvos from members of Congress with home-district concerns about aspects of the administration's policy or budget decisions.
McDonough has been involved in just about every major national security decision made by Obama since he took office, from the surge in U.S. troops in Afghanistan to the launching of the commando raid that killed Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
McDonough, who holds the title of deputy national security adviser, served since October 2009 as the chief of staff to the National Security Council, regularly overseeing the so-called deputies meetings where key decisions are hashed out or teed up for more senior officials. At the outset of the administration, he was in charge of "strategic communications" for the NSC.
"Unlike some of the other senior staffers, there was just no drama associated with Denis. He's always poised, collected and unflapped. He was also a team player. To my knowledge, he never went behind people's back," recalled former White House Counsel Greg Craig. "He's also courageous and has no qualms about calling people up and telling people his views."
McDonough was foreign policy advisor to Senator Tom Daschle, one of the most liberal members of Congress. He will be a reliable chief of staff - and predictable. It is certain he will not plot against the president's inner circle of Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, and David Plouffe. Not being a real insider, McDonough will be charged with keeping the paper flowing and supporting the president's initiatives.
A gray little man doing a gray little job.