November 6th, 2008
04:10 PM ET
9 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. Dave

    No change coming, folks. Rahm, the hothead, another Chicago slimeball. He was the one that thrust a knife into a table at a meeting of the transition team for Clinton's first term and shouted "dead" about those who apposed Clinton. Guy is not dealing with a full deck.

    November 6, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  2. ednadavid

    Rahm Emanuel – a wise choice, someone who is driven, and is known for his tough, direct approach. That's what we need in the White House, not the crony types that were appointed over the past eight years. He is also connected to the Jewish community in a very tangible way – so we can forget the argument that Barack Obama would not support the Israelis in their quest for world wide recognition of the Jewish State.

    November 6, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  3. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    Good and bad. Rahm Emanuel is smart and experienced, but known to have a temper and a biting sense of humor.

    November 6, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  4. Fred the moderate

    Good Choice

    November 6, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  5. Conservative James, Phoenix, AZ

    Well, Dave, looks like you are just parroting your god Limbaugh's crapola about Rahm. Your blog is almost word-for-word what he said yesterday in his daily gas attack.

    Why not form an opinion of your own before letting someone do your thinking for you.

    November 6, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  6. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Emanuel is a great choice and he's brilliant, so are his two brothers, must run in the family.

    November 6, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  7. baldexsoldier

    I am very interested in Obama's crew. I truly hope that Republicans will agree to help out if asked. Now is truly the time for bipartisan efforts to end our problems.
    I think that if Republicans stonewall, they will only hurt themselves and the rest of the country. I look forward to this new world we are all creating together.

    November 6, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  8. Eight Is Truly Enough

    Glad President Elect Obama got WHO HE WANTED. This is a man who put together (and got who he wanted) to run his campaign and look where we are now 21 months later. PE Obama surrounds himself with the best so sit back and let him show you how just like when he was running to earn our trust, faith and loyalty he will do the same with the cabinet he chooses.

    November 6, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  9. Triggidy

    Intelligence surrounds itself with intelligence. Choose wisely, Mr. President. As an admitted leftist, I hope he does appoint some Republicans. It's important for the man at the top to hear all sides. Just don't pick the crazies, they've been running things for far too long.

    November 6, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  10. Borat

    Great Start !

    November 6, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  11. Retired Army in San Antonio

    Emanuel is a big time'doer'. He'll be a great White House CofS!

    Next up; Secretaries of State and Defense!

    November 6, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  12. Griff


    November 6, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  13. Stacey

    Great choice! Temper or not, President Elect Barrack Obama said he wants the best for his cabinet choices. This is a good start.

    November 6, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  14. Never again!

    All i have heard is bad things about this guy, but only from the REP.! so i guess he is the right person for the Job! He has my approval.

    He must be doing something right if the party that drug our economy to HELL, doesnt like him!

    November 6, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  15. RealityKing

    When Rahm Emanuel volunteered for the Israeli army.., they deemed him worthy of cleaning rusty brakes on old Jeeps. Which is quite a coincidence since those are the exact skills Rahm will need to exhume the old liberalistic style of the 70's..

    November 6, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  16. shom, sugar land, tx

    to dave,
    change is coming, whether you like it or not. you people can scream and complain from the top of the roof, but it ain't gonna work this time!

    November 6, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  17. Soccer Nana

    Give the President Elect a chance to get what he perceives will be a good fit to BEGIN work toward changing to a better policy of running this great Country.

    We are outside-looking-through-the-window. Give the incoming administration a chance to begin to "mix" the ingredients so that we can "bake" a good "cake" in a good "oven". Remember, when you take out the ingredients to make a cake or prepare a good roast, it doesn't "look" good; but when you work to get the proper ingredients and seasonings together, the cake and the roast turn out just fine.

    Patience my fellow citizens, patience.

    November 6, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  18. Alice Brinkley


    November 6, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  19. Angie

    President Obama, you are off to a great start. Keep up the good work.

    November 6, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  20. Matt

    What Dave you have the inside scope because you were there?

    Get a grip! Move on....

    November 6, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  21. Tired of the Nonsense

    To Dave –

    The Clinton Administration was one of the most successful in recent history and with this man at the helm, Obama's on the right track. He truly is putting country first.......we all have different personalities and it's a wise President who chooses his staff according to their abilities while at the same time having the temperament and patience to realize we are all human beings. Obama knows how to bring different personalities together otherwise he would have not been able to run such a successful and disciplined campaign, ending with a surplus instead of in debt like the other failed campaigns......thus setting the tone for how he will run the country.

    November 6, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  22. Ken in Dallas

    Well I count the fact that Bohner hates him as a vote of confidence.

    November 6, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  23. melinda in NV

    Is this the man who instigated the immature Clinton transition team when Bush was coming in and they TRASHED the office, costing taxpayers lots of money? Leaving with no civil words or even trying to carry on what was going on? Taking all the W's off the keyboards and thinking they would be thought of as mature? yeah, great choice – another divider! I guess there is no "change" except more over-the-top partisan bickering and back-biting.

    November 6, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  24. Marc PDX

    Oh, it'll be change you can believe in I'm quite sure.... LOL!

    November 6, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  25. Art

    Wow...Obama first selection was a Catholic (Biden) and his second selection is a devout Orthodox Jew.

    So where are all the Islamic extremists that Rush and the McCain camp had us worried about?

    I feel like I was almost duped by the right wing rednecks...NOT!!

    November 6, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
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