November 6th, 2008
04:10 PM ET
6 years ago

Emanuel can 'get things done,' Obama says

Obama named Rahm Emanuel chief of staff Thursday.
Obama named Rahm Emanuel chief of staff Thursday.

(CNN) – Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a top House Democrat, has agreed to be Barack Obama's chief of staff, Obama announced Thursday.

"No one I know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel," Obama said in a statement announcing the appointment.

Emanuel responded, also in a written statement, "I'm leaving a job I love to join your White House for one simple reason - I want to do everything I can to help deliver the change America needs."

Emanuel, a former top aide to President Bill Clinton, choked up earlier in the day as he said how glad he was his parents are alive to see him have the choice of becoming chief of staff for the first African-American president.

Related: Emanuel expected to bring 'tough minded' approach to White House

Emanuel, 48, was elected to Congress in 2002 after having been a top aide to President Bill Clinton.

He later helped the Democrats wrest majority control of the House from the Republicans in 2006, when he ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Obama and Emanuel are both from Chicago.

The Republican leader in the House criticized the choice of Emanuel - who has a reputation as a tough political infighter - even before it was confirmed.

"This is an ironic choice for a president-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil, and govern from the center," Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a written statement.

The chief of staff oversees and coordinates activities and communication among various departments of an administration.

Obama is also expected to announce his press secretary pick as early as Thursday afternoon, and observers believe it will be Robert Gibbs, the communications director for his presidential campaign.

Gibbs said the report that he has been offered the job is "ahead of itself."

Obama will hold a news conference Friday, his first since winning the election Tuesday, an Obama transition official said.

He may announce key administrative appointments, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing Obama's plans. Obama also is expected to take questions from reporters, the official said.

Also announced Thursday was that Obama and his wife, Michelle, will visit the White House on Monday.

Bush and Obama will meet in the Oval Office, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, while Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Obama will meet in and tour the private residence.

Obama was considering who will be on his transition team long before Tuesday's election declared him the nation's leader, and several Republicans were on the short list.

Obama is thinking about bringing GOP Sen. Richard Lugar and retiring Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel on board, according to sources close to the president-elect.

Hagel, R-Nebraska, is a Vietnam War veteran and fierce critic of the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war.

Lugar, R-Indiana, is minority leader of the Foreign Relations Committee and worked with Obama last year to expand a program aimed at destroying weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union.

Also, the sources say Obama is considering adding Robert Gates - Bush's defense secretary - to his national security team.

It is common for presidential candidates to begin setting up a transition team before they are elected. The 10 weeks between the election and the inauguration are not enough time to assemble a team to lead the country.

CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger said that it's important to take steps quickly to set the right tone, pointing to President Clinton, who waited weeks to fill Cabinet positions and announced many of his top staffers just five days before he was sworn in.

"Everything you do early on in a presidency gets magnified. You don't want to make the same mistakes that Bill Clinton made," she said.

John Podesta, a former chief of staff under Clinton, is among those leading Obama's transition team. Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama's top advisers, and Peter Rouse, Obama's Senate chief of staff, are also involved in the effort.

Filling out his economic team is a top priority for Obama as he begins to implement a strategy to quell the economic crisis.

"This is one of the first times that I can remember that the secretary of the treasury is going to be almost as important as the secretary of state," said CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, who served in the Reagan and Clinton administrations.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Thursday that he looks forward to a "smooth" transition.

"I congratulate Sen. Obama on the election and look forward to working with his team to ensure that there is a smooth and effective transition. A methodical and orderly transition is in the best interests of the financial markets and Treasury is committed to making sure that the incoming team can hit
the ground running in January," he said in a written statement.

Names circulating for the secretary of the treasury position include Timothy Geithner, Lawrence Summers and Paul Volcker, among others.

Geithner helped deal with Wall Street's financial meltdown earlier this year, overseeing the acquisition of Bear Stearns by JPMorgan Chase and the bailouts of AIG and Lehman Brothers. He was appointed president of the New York Federal Reserve in November 2003.

Summers was appointed treasury secretary in July 1999 and served as the chief economist of the World Bank from 1991 through 1993. Before his career in government, he taught economics at Harvard.

Volcker is a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, serving under Presidents Carter and Reagan. He also worked in the private sector as an investment banker and headed the investigation into the United Nations' oil-for-food program for Iraq.

The White House is holding an economic summit November 15. Obama could delay naming his economic team to avoid interfering with the G-20 summit.

Obama's national security team is another priority as the country fights wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It could also be an area where he goes outside his party for an appointee.

Hagel and Gates are both being considered.

Gates has served in Bush's Cabinet for almost two years. He worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for 27 years, serving as its director from 1991 through 1993. He also served as deputy national security adviser under President George H. W. Bush.

"What Barack Obama has to do in the transition time is set the tone," Borger said. "If he reaches out to Republicans in the Cabinet - if he decided to keep Bob Gates at Defense - that's really, really important."

soundoff (204 Responses)
  1. Cate M.

    The man is smart and tough and Republicans can't wait to criticize everything Obama does, which is not unexpected coming from them....sore losers!!!

    November 6, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  2. The Stallion & The Champ vs. The Old Mule and Winky Half-baked Alaska

    Someone needs to tell Boehner it's time for a touch-up on the spray tan and even more important he not miss cocktail hour with the Georgetown set Mr. McCain so often referred to.

    November 6, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  3. Liz F

    kelli w – who said Obama said he knew how to fix everything -

    sorry, but that was mccain. the repititious "i can do it, i know how, and I will, and i can do it and i know how and i can..."

    obama simply stated he would bring change, and have quality people around him who could help facilitate that change.

    it would be nice if we could all get off this vicarious style of communicating, living our political views through candidates.

    it;s important that we hold onto our own beliefs, and vote for someone who embraces the values we hold true.

    i feel obama is that person, some others do not.

    however, after 8 years of calamity – some inherited, some not – it is a breath of fresh air to have obama in the white house.

    let's stop the racism, this pseudo pundit style of blogging here – CNN, you guys ought to be responsible here and do not post some of this crap.

    bottom line is – none of us are president. obama did the leg work, he put in the time, he was elected.

    none of us blogging here can say that.

    who are we to be so critical, when the dude hasn't even been sworn in?

    and, if good things came from an obama presidency, would any of you recognize it, or are you so entrenched in your paranoia and bitterness that you would just not see?

    November 6, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
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