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. FreeNLovIt

    Yes, Obama has a lot of favors to oblige and I hope he STAYS STRONG and put AMERICA first, not US, but America first and everything will fall into place.

    Everyone is like a kid. We want ice cream in the morning, TWIX for lunch and BUBBLE GUM for dinner. As a parent, I hope Obama thinks about how to NURTURE America, the right way. This is THE REAL CHANGE WE NEED....

    November 6, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  2. progress

    Let's not forget that the American People of all races, and some Republicans chose Obama to be our 44th President! This man has shown that he has the potential to take this country in a new direction!
    Check out some of the pictures and the jublilation on the faces of those pictures from all over the world from Obama being elected!
    Never have I seen so many people drawn together from all over the world. This man has shown us all that we ALL need to come together and make this country the proud country that it should be!

    And from the words of our PE: We are not a Red or Blue America, We are the United States of America! God Bless America!

    November 6, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  3. Richard

    For all of you people that think Obama is good. I hope you all remember it when 2010 comes around and your taxes go up. When the Bush tax cuts expire people making 30,000 and up will have higher taxes. I guess if you don't have a job and are on welfare you won't be affected. THe public works projects he proposes will make all of the union people happy. They can lose their jobs to the unemployed and be thankful and happy to lose everything to do so.

    November 6, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  4. Joe the hedge fund manager, Los Angeles, CA

    What a terrible choice for Obama if he REALLY wants bi-partisian co-operation. Is that just ANOTHER LIE that Obama has told?

    November 6, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  5. Kris

    I do hope Obama appoints at least 1 GOP and I also hope we have strong women in positions other than something lame like Labor. I have no patience for another bunch of macho men, even if they ARE on our side.....sigh....

    November 6, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  6. lee75

    One of the best things about this whole election is BUSH WILL NOT BE THERE. Now I won't have to dodge him on the evening news and keep changing channels to avoid him. I not stand that man.

    November 6, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  7. John P.

    Anybody who is naive enough to think a political rookie like our President-elect could fill his cabinet with neophytes and be successful needs to learn more about how Washington works. Because even though he brings a fresh outlook and a clear mandate for change, the overwhelming majority of the people he will have to deal with have been doing this for a very long time. You need someone who knows how to work the system to get your agenda pushed through. And regardless of who he picks, people will find fault (on both sides of the aisle). So why don't we all just take a couple of chill pills and give these good people a chance to get their team together and figure out how to get our country back on track. We owe them that, along with our support, ideas, and polite, well thought out dissent.

    November 6, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  8. kgdexter

    I sugest that everyone out there start wishing our new president well, because his success is our success!

    November 6, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  9. JLH

    Interesting fact: The character "Ari Gold" on the show Entourage is based on Rahm's brother, super agent, Ari Emanuel! Josh Lyman's character from NBC's "West Wing" is said to be based on Rahm.

    November 6, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  10. Rachel

    It's the chief of staff for crying out loud! Who cares if he/she is rep/dem, if Obama thinks he's the best for the country to get out this economic mess, then let him be. Obama can choose McCain for all I care for the handling of Iraq.

    November 6, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  11. Judy

    Obama will surround himself with wise & efficient people. This is what I thought about him during the primary campaign, and his choice of Rham Emanual as Chief of Staff affirms my thoughts.

    November 6, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  12. Jackie in Dallas

    Chief of staff is not a Cabinet role, it is a staff role. If you are going to make comments, in particular disparging ones, at least get the titles and roles correct.

    Emmanuel has a diverse background, including previous service as White House Chief of Staff. It is more important to the comfort and smooth running of the staff of the White House, and the organization, than it is to policy making. It is critical that President Elect Obama have someone he likes and trusts in that position. It's also important that that position have someone who can disagree with the President, or recommend alternatives, so they must be intelligent, as well.

    November 6, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  13. kelvin j.

    President elect OBAMA thanks for picking a man who knows his right from his left. and an achiever in all his pursued.
    The republicans will attact every good move and praise the bad once so that you may make irreperable errors. watch out !!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

    And to sore losers out there!!!!!! age and experience are not as good as Wisdom and none of those can't be achieved with time. But Wisdom is a gift from God which is been given to Obama. So keep quiet and ask papa mccain what bad experience means. Talking about appointment of people with more experience.

    November 6, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  14. Kristin

    Great Choice.
    Obviously very thought out. Two choices of his so far have been very responsible- Joe Biden and Rahm Emanuel. Obama is so level headed. Something this country has been lacking. A leader who makes good choices- see how easy change can be with the right people in place.

    November 6, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  15. JLH

    Why don't you BITTER REPUBLICAN LOSERS just go away, die or whatever?!

    November 6, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  16. Jaye

    Excellent choice, and I don't care what the republican talking heads say.
    The republican leaders had their chance and blew it – now it's time for the democrats to take the reigns and get things done.

    November 6, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  17. Bob In Baltimore

    To All Extremeist Right Wing Fanatics:

    Let me quote two of your icons of stupidity here. Both Justice(?) Scalia and Ted (Bridge to Nowhere) Stevens:

    GET OVER IT!!!!!!!!!

    Nuff said.

    November 6, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  18. The Dutchman

    larry wi writes "This is going to be interesting, everyone that NObama will have on his staff will have more experience at everything than he does,"
    **************************************************************************
    Well, duh, I hope every business person hires people that are the best in their field. How else would you become successfull? The President is supposed the manage the affairs of the USA. He delegates the desires of it's citizens and has the best people to make those desires a reality. Imagine that!!! You have probably forgotten that, since your hero of the last long 8 years failed to do so. He's not too bright, so did not realize who the best people were. Hence the mess the USA is in now. Yes, it's time for a big change!

    November 6, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  19. Ridgeway

    First job. Name the family dog. Hmmm....let's see. What to name a pit bull? Mike if it's a boy, Vicky if it's a girl. That's it. That's the ticket.

    November 6, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  20. JLH

    McCain supporters are seething with racial hatred and rage....very Christian-like.

    November 6, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  21. berrystone

    Now this is change we can believe in. Obama's first move is to appoint a partisan political hack as he chief of staff. Well done!

    November 6, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  22. Jose Wales

    Well, I hope there is a good team in the making. Now that we have Joe the bummer and Joe the Liberman out of the way we can move forward.

    November 6, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  23. Len Albuq New Mexico

    Poor poor Dave brainwashed by hannity o'riley limbaugh pukes. apposed is spelled opposed Dave. suck it up dave and get over it.

    November 6, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  24. Karen - Missouri

    I think Rahm will be just fine. Obama will surround himself with very intelligent decision-makers. Right now the picking of several who worked with the Clintons is wise...especially with the economic crisis. The Clinton years did make a surplus in our country's budget...so they very well would be a great help.

    For those crying about change...good grief, it's only been a couple days...and Obama hasn't even taken office yet. But then there's always those people who have too much time on their hands and do nothing but complain no matter what. I feel sorry for them...life must be so miserable for them.

    November 6, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  25. Lisa

    It is amazing that Obama picked Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff. As a Jewish American, I am happy with this pick. Rush Limbough was discussing this topic today and Rush said America will not be safe because Obama picked a Jew.

    I think Rush L, Sean H, and Fox news will have 4-Years of Hell. Someone needs to shut these two people up. This hate against our New President will not be tolerated.

    November 6, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
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