November 6th, 2008
04:10 PM ET
10 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. Laverne

    Rahm will be great and not easily intimidated. The Republicans are mad because they know they can't pull their usual cramp on Rahm because he's got their number. Obama is right on que with this pick!

    November 6, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  2. larry wi

    This is going to be interesting, everyone that NObama will have on his staff will have more experience at everything than he does, what a joke this administration is and will be.

    November 6, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  3. Charles L. Shaw, Liverpool, NY

    My wishes for good luck and god speed to the Obama transition team, " We the People" need to let go of this past history anger, this election is now history, and as Americans we need to rally big time to overcome the challanges in front of us going forward, not backward. I did not vote for this President, but he did win and he did win hands down. All of this Monday quaterback talk is not going to help us get our Country back on keel.
    We now need to help focus on winning for all of America!

    November 6, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  4. rusty

    I would call it a good pick. The fact that Emmanuel is tough, and knows how to get things done, serves notice to Congress that they are going to be busy in the near future. I believe Emmanuel is also Jewish, and that should comfort our allies in Israel, and have the opposite effect on our enemies. Good choice

    November 6, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  5. larry wi

    Just wait Art, just wait!! NObama has a lot of favors to oblige.

    November 6, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  6. DebM, Allentown, PA

    Here's something to think about.

    When Charlie Gibson asked Palin about becoming VP, her answer was that she didn't blink. She didn't think about her family and what it would mean to them. She thought only of herself and her career.

    Emanuel has taken two days to consider this. He knows that it will greatly impact his family and his ability to be with them.

    Now can we PLEASE stop saying that the Republicans are the party of family values (implying that the Democrats are not) when it's so obvious that either characterization is a gross exaggeration and misrepresentation.

    November 6, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  7. Chris (SC)

    Chief of Staff has to be tough so this seems to be a perfect selection.

    No matter who Obama selects the right wing will never be happy. To be honest the more pissed off they are the better the selection.

    Will be funny if Obama makes a real effort to select republicans to his staff and they turn him down. Not much he can do about being bipartisan if the people he wants turn him down. Even in defeat the republicans can't be bipartisan.

    November 6, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  8. Dave

    awe, John Boehner is just jealous he didn't get picked!

    Sorry Boehner, you are too far-right to make it. Emmanuel is certainly a centrist, in fact he's too centrist for me as a liberal democrat... I guess in that case Obama truly *is* already governing from the so-called "center"

    November 6, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  9. Rich

    to Larry Wi – Relax, you'll get over it.

    November 6, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  10. Enjoying life to the fullest! :)

    Of course the Re'lic party is not done with their "disapprovals" Some people are not happy unless they are complaining all the time and cutting other people down just to make themselves feel better. Can you say elitist? No, I'm not being hateful, I'm just telling the truth like it is. That's just MY opinion, you can have yours...

    November 6, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  11. paul (staunch Moderate)

    Rep. Boehner should not be grading Rahm Emmanuel's job performance before he even clocks in. Such negativity!

    I sure as hell wouldn't want to have to work with someone who has determined my performance will stink before I even got started.
    That goes for all you posters on here like "Dave" (November 6th, 2008 4:29 pm ET) who have pre-determined that everything is going to be terrible under the new administration. My gosh! Do any of you ever have a POSITIVE outlook on anything?

    November 6, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  12. Diane Panama City Fl

    If Rush Limbaugh and John Boehner are criticizing the choice, then it must be a good one. Anything these two bozos have to say wreak with stupdity and hatred. Boehner is the one who called Obama chicken s@#$. Perhaps now is the time Boehner should be forced to literally eat those words, and I have a feeling that Emanuel is just the person to make him do it! Go Emanuel!!!

    November 6, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  13. Betty, Virginia

    Good Grief .. are the old male politicians in the GOP so scared of change that they need to start whining before they actually have to work with this new president and his staff. Haven't they learned from Senator Clinton and Senator McCain's actions that being negative won't get them anywhere in the new America?

    What's that old saying... you can attract a lot more flies with honey than vinegar. I will say to them, the days of bullying your way through won't work anymore. Keep in mind, some of the supporters of Obama became so because they no longer wanted to support angry, fear, bullying tactics.

    Meanwhile, you're grown men and women. Stop whining and start doing.

    November 6, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  14. carylsfoster

    For all those already crying and whining partisan politics on the basis of the selection of "Ramnbo" Emanuel......

    Get over it already and it is not as if anyone expected a Republican to be named President Obama's Chief of Staff.

    This is a critical position of trust in whom the President entrusts the power to ensure that his politics and policies are effectively communicated and efficiently implemented.

    The truth is that it is Rahm Emanuel who will follow his and our President's lead and not the other way around. And you can expect the new Chief of Staff to do exactly that to the best of his ability, talent and experience which is considerable and recognized by everyone as such.

    President Obama is simply and smartly picking and putting the best people in the best position to do what they do best and that will include a number of Republicans who meet this high standard.

    November 6, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  15. Biff


    you say Rahm isn't dealing with a full deck...

    just a reminder...

    this is the man who is credited with putting congress back on Dem hands.

    he was crazy enough to beat the republicans TWICE...

    2006 'and' 2008..

    November 6, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  16. June in Canada

    Let's face it, no matter who President Obama chooses for any position it will be picked apart. If he picked Jesus to be on his team they would say HE was a "peacenik" with no foregn policy experience and palled around with "traitors" like Judas Escariot.
    I have complete faith in his judgement, I mean isnt that one of the reasons he was voted into office? Rahm Emanuel was a very young man in the Clinton years and is now older and wiser, but not too old. I think he is a very good choice and perhaps President Obama's calm deliberate manner will rub off on him.

    November 6, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  17. Patriotic American

    Melinda, you should know that the whole thing about Clintin staffers trashing the White House and ripping the W's off the computer keyboards was confirmed as untrue. It was just another example of juvenile partisanship and deceit by the Bush administration, the start of many.

    November 6, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  18. America loses

    Who needs to bi-partisan now that we have Obama and Emmanuel, they hell with anyone that is center right in their ideology. Maybe they will come up with a law extraditing the 56 million that voted for McCain.

    God help us that care about productive people.

    November 6, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  19. Ed from Dallas

    Keep telling you Obama is the smartest president ever. He knew that the Republicans will be trying to stall his promises so they can claim Obama failed and hopefully get back the Whitehouse.

    Obama knows this and has put someone there to make sure he delivers Change to the American people. The GOPers are whining because they now know with Emmanuel as the Chief of Staff, it will be very hard to stall the Change Obama will bring.

    November 6, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  20. michael

    I applaud President elect Obama's choice of Emmanuel. The man ran the campaign to retake the Congress so he has shown he can probably help coordinate the White House departments as Chief of Staff.

    Ironically, look at his last name and think about all the Obama "Messiah" cracks.

    November 6, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  21. laura

    I respect Mr. Emanuel, I always liked him when he was top aide to President Bill Clinton.

    Good choice Mr. Obama.

    November 6, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  22. Rick

    Is this part of the big change? lol...what a joke.

    November 6, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  23. karen-phoenix

    Excellent choice!!! Hard worker who gets things done! I'm afraid Barack is going to take Janet Napalitano away from us in AZ!!! She is fantastic and the US will love her!!!

    November 6, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  24. America loses

    Obama's dilemma. How is he going to defend Europe if Russia invades Poland when Obama would prefer our country be just like Russia in its ideology of Socialism. He will probably join forces with Putin.

    November 6, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  25. John

    Driven, he is. And he has a great tendency to drive others away who fail to agree with him. This appointment may be a serious blow to the unity theme that was supposed to mend the country. Lieberman's smackdown and now the appointment of a partisan pitbull don't bode well for a unified government untainted by partisanship. I was hopeful, but my hopefulness is beginning to waver and we haven't even made it through the first week.

    November 6, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9