February 15, 2011

Denis McDonough

Denis McDonough is the National Security Council's chief of staff and one of President Obama's closest advisers. Mr. McDonough is reportedly so close to the president that colleagues — even his superiors — often do not make a major move without first checking with him.

Mr. McDonough is well known for picking up the phone to take people to task, from reporters to Washington talking heads to other Obama officials who go off message. He has berated some of the Democratic Party's most distinguished foreign policy dignitaries when they have dared to critique Mr. Obama publicly.

Mr. McDonough began his Capitol Hill career as an aide to the House International Relations Committee, where he focused on Latin America. He went on to work for Tom Daschle, the former South Dakota senator and former Senate majority leader, rising to senior foreign policy adviser, and became legislative director for Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado after Mr. Daschle's re-election defeat. He was then a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic-leaning policy organization, before joining the Obama campaign.

During the campaign, Mr. McDonough took on the role of Mr. Obama's foreign policy guru. He helped synthesize the contributions of some 300 foreign policy advisers, divided into teams based on regions and issues, to assist Mr. Obama in formulating and articulating his foreign policy. Mr. McDonough was often dispatched to brief reporters about Mr. Obama's positions.

His work during the campaign sealed his role as Mr. Obama's most trusted foreign policy aide in the White House.

He was born Dec. 2, 1969, in Stillwater, Minn. He graduated from St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., and has a master's from Georgetown University.