ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
One of the superdelegates who declared himself today for Obama was Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. Emanuel served in the Clinton White House and like Obama is a member of the Illinois congressional delegation, and he joins us now from Capitol Hill. Welcome back to the program.
Representative RAHM EMANUEL: (Democrat, Illinois) Thank you, Robert.
SIEGEL: You said not long ago on NPR that you're hiding under your desk from Clinton and Obama supporters. We're glad to know that you're out in the open.
Mr. EMANUEL: I didn't know it was even spring. I thought it was still winter.
SIEGEL: Now that you've opened your eyes again and you're out in the open, did you speak to Senator Clinton yourself or to Senator Obama for that matter?
Mr. EMANUEL: Oh, sure. I talked to Hillary a couple times yesterday, I talked to her over the weekend. I was with Barack today. I talked to him a number of times in the last week.
SIEGEL: And Senator Clinton's reaction to your endorsement of Senator Obama?
Mr. EMANUEL: Well, you know, actually I said to her, you know, Barack's - or the campaign's invited me to be with him at AIPAC. She said you should go and support his effort. He's going to need the help. So there I went.
SIEGEL: We'll come back to AIPAC in a moment. In the next phase for the Democratic campaign, whose move is it? Does Senator Clinton - is she obliged now to drop out and endorse Barack Obama? Does he have to approach her? What happens?
Mr. EMANUEL: Well, there's - first of all, he's the nominee. The most important thing we can do is get ready for November. I mean, I'm slightly in a different place than other people. Hillary said she's interested in the vice presidency. If she's interested in the vice presidency, she's acknowledged he's the nominee and that process has ended. Barack has indicated to her both in phone conversation as well as when he said it publicly, she should take the time she needs. Nobody expects you, after the effort that was put in, so close of a race that, you know, tomorrow you're done. So she gets the time and I think that's an appropriate human gesture accepted by her. I don't want to say offered or proffered by Barack, but acknowledged. And I think nobody expects last night - I mean I don't think anybody expects us to go on endlessly, and there's an appropriate time and we'll all know it when it hits.
SIEGEL: Is Barack Obama obliged to offer her the vice presidency right now?
Mr. EMANUEL: You know, I - here's my view, which is this is - you'll have a lot of tough decisions in the White House. You know, as President Kennedy use to say, to govern is to choose between bad and worse. I mean, those are the choices you have. One of the most important decisions you're going to make prior to getting the White House is your vice president. And I think you got - you know, Barack's going to set up a process, be very thoughtful about it and analytical about it and look at what he needs.
I think Hillary, having been in the White House, having been at the side of her president, of her husband rather, in the decisions he had to make both in the White House and prior, obviously respects the magnitude or the weight of this decision, and I don't think she would expect him or anybody who's the nominee ever be rushed in any way on a momentous decision like this, given that you actually have time.
SIEGEL: Is the fact that she was the First Lady and if she were vice president or the running mate, that the vice president's spouse would be a little higher profile than Tipper Gore or Lynn Cheney - Bill Clinton - does that complicate matters and make it all the more difficult to have a vice presidential running mate, Hillary Clinton?
Mr. EMANUEL: You noticed, huh?
SIEGEL: Yeah, I've heard - I heard a rumor that he was a former occupant of the bigger building.
Mr. EMANUEL: Yeah, well, I mean, this election, Robert, is filled with new things. In our primary you had an African-American and a woman as the major two candidates. You have John McCain, who - although that's - you know he is a hero of (unintelligible) so there's a lot of newness. And then you have on top of that a former First Lady who is a senator, who is the wife of a former president. So it's one more layer of something totally new.
SIEGEL: You accompanied Senator Obama, as you said, to the AIPAC Conference today, the big pro-Israel group. Does he have a problem, some work to do with the Jewish voters, Jewish Democrats?
Mr. EMANUEL: Well, I think that, first of all, Senator Durbin was there from Illinois, Congresswoman (inaudible), Robert Wexler, others where there. the only thing different was those people have been with him through the primary. I decided at the end of the process to come out and this was where I wanted to support him. He has, you know, it's not - if you look at his record, no, and if you look at how he won in Illinois for the U.S. Senate, the answer is no.
SIEGEL: No problem, you're saying.
Mr. EMANUEL: No. I do think, you know, without a doubt there was a lot of expectations to today's speech, and I thought he gave a very, very powerful speech. I said and Senator Durbin in his own words also said when we both spoke to the executive board with Barack, you know, what is a friend? Somebody who you implicitly trust for their loyalty and you expect their honesty. If Barack was elected president, Israel would have a friend because he will be - implicitly you can trust him as it relates to Israel's security and our commitment to it, and you can expect honesty. and I think that's what you want out of a friendship.
SIEGEL: Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, member from Illinois, and now Obama's supporter. Thanks a lot for talking with us.
Rep. EMANUEL: Thanks, Robert. It's great to be outside the desk.
(Soundbite of laughing)
SIEGEL: Out from hiding. Bye now.
Rep. EMANUEL: Bye-bye.
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