MICHELE NORRIS, host:
President-elect Barack Obama took an important first step today in organizing his new administration. Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel accepted his offer to serve as White House chief of staff. In a statement, Obama said of Emanuel, "No one I know is better at getting things done." Tomorrow Obama plans to hold his first news conference as president-elect, and on Monday he's scheduled to visit the White House. NPR's David Greene has been following these developments.
DAVID GREENE: Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois congressman who's set to become Obama's White House chief of staff, is known in Washington for his sharp elbows. He was asked about this on All Things Considered last year.
Representative RAHM EMANUEL (Democrat, Illinois): I mean, look, I like winning. I think winning's important, especially when your job is to win. And I'm aggressive about fighting for what I believe in and not just to win for the sake of winning.
GREENE: Before serving in Congress, Emanuel was a policy adviser in President Bill Clinton's White House and then an investment banker. His reputation for toughness and partisanship makes him seem like an odd match for Obama and his style of politics. But Avis LaVelle, a Chicago political consultant who's worked with Emanuel, said he may help Obama be the good cop.
Ms. AVIS LAVELLE (Partner, LaVelle Cousin Issues Management LLC): Rahm can have an edge to his personality, and he can be the one to follow up in a sharper fashion with those who need additional motivation if they fail to respond to what the president asked them to do.
GREENE: William Galston is an authority on presidential transitions at the Brookings Institution. Galston said it was important to get someone in the chief of staff position quickly.
Dr. WILLIAM GALSTON (Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution): A transition is not going to go very well unless the chief of staff, who will be responsible for helping the president-elect put together the administration, is designated early and everybody knows that he will be the bearer of the president-elect's authority in making a number of decisions that the president-elect will simply have no time to make himself.
GREENE: Obama will likely talk about Emanuel tomorrow when he plans to hold an afternoon news conference following a meeting with his economic team. Today the president-elect remained away from the cameras here in Chicago. Aides say he spent part of the day in a classified intelligence briefing, something that will become an almost daily routine through the transition and his presidency. President Bush often spoke about that morning intelligence briefing as the most sobering part of his day.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: I get briefed every morning about threats we face, and they're real. Now - and therefore the question is, what do you do about them?
GREENE: That was Mr. Bush in Washington earlier this year. This morning the current president gathered scores of White House employees on the South Lawn to talk about a transition of power.
President BUSH: Some of you have been at the White House for just a few months. Others arrived the same day that we did nearly eight years ago. You're the ones who can tell that my hair has gotten a little grayer.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GREENE: This, Mr. Bush said, will be the first wartime transition in four decades. With the worldwide economic crisis as well, Mr. Bush said Obama won't have time to settle in. But Mr. Bush said he'll help in any way he can.
President BUSH: This peaceful transfer of power is one of the hallmarks of a true democracy. And ensuring that this transition is as smooth as possible is the priority for the rest of my presidency.
GREENE: On Monday, Mr. Bush and first lady Laura Bush will welcome Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, to the White House. In a statement, Obama thanked Mr. Bush for his, quote, "spirit of bipartisanship." David Greene, NPR News, Chicago.
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