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Who's At The Top Of Obama's Schedule?

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Who's At The Top Of Obama's Schedule?

Politics

Who's At The Top Of Obama's Schedule?

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up, in Alaska, they're still counting ballots in the Senate race. Newly convicted felon and incumbent Republican Senator Ted Stevens has a slight lead.

BRAND: Our top story today is change at the top. Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel has accepted the offer to become Barack Obama's White House chief of staff, and Senator Obama is expected to hold his first news conference as president elect tomorrow. Here with us is NPR's David Greene. He's in Chicago with Obama. And so it's official finally, Rahm Emanuel, and he's a good friend of Senator Obama's.

DAVID GREENE: Yeah, he sure is. They've known each other, so he's both a good friend from Illinois and also someone with White House experience. You know, this was an important job for Barack Obama to fill early on because the White House chief of staff is beside the president of the United States each and every day.

And there might be a bit of a good cop, bad cop type thing going on because Barack Obama says, you know, he brings a softer side of politics. Rahm Emanuel is tough. He's a Washington insider. He knows how to work the ways of Washington.

And he's the person who will be, you know, Barack Obama's go-to guy when it comes to dealing with the agencies, dealing with Republicans in Washington, and he's a guy who likes to win, Madeleine. He once told NPR, I like winning. I think winning is important, especially when your job is to win. I'm aggressive about fighting for what I believe in. So, he's someone who's going to be tough.

BRAND: Well, he also won re-election on Tuesday night as a congressman, and he did so in part with the help of Wall Street, one of the biggest recipients, it turns out, of Wall Street campaign contributions.

GREENE: That's right, and he was also an investment banker before coming to Congress, in between that stint in the Clinton White House and being elected to Congress in 2002. So, that'll be an interesting thing to watch, you know, if, after this choice is made, if Republicans react to Rahm Emanuel's ties.

BRAND: Now, President-elect Obama, he's expected to hold this news conference tomorrow. What more will he talk about, other positions that he may have filled?

GREENE: It's possible. You know, Treasury secretary is a very important position that is out there. I think we're going to hear Barack Obama focus a lot on the economy. That's going to be the theme of tomorrow. It's obviously the issue that's number one on voters' minds. It's the issue that a lot of voters are turning to President-elect Obama to deal with early on.

You know, Barack Obama has been trying to spend some quiet time here in Chicago over the last 24 hours or so with his daughters, with his wife, and they say one reason he's in Chicago, sort of basing himself here, is to get some of that family time, and I think the news crunch is coming, you know, this announcement, he's holding hours and hours of meetings downtown, and then a news conference that's going to get a ton of attention tomorrow, talking about the way forward.

BRAND: All right, and he's also, obviously, hard at work and receiving these classified memos now, right?

GREENE: Yeah, I mean, this was a big morning for him and also probably a dose of reality. I mean, we obviously don't know exactly what was said, but he received classified security briefings from the CIA.

President Bush often talked about these briefings. You know, he would say that when he gets these morning briefings every day about the situation in the world and intelligence reports and threats, they were very sobering. They were this tough dose of reality.

And Barack Obama got that this morning, and he'll be getting these regular briefings now probably every day and then going into the presidency. So whatever struck President Bush as very difficult and sobering to hear in the morning, Barack Obama's getting that same thing in his ear today.

BRAND: NPR's David Greene in Chicago with the president-elect. Thank you, David.

GREENE: Thank you, Madeleine.

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