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`Absolute Enforcer’ Emanuel Has Big Role in Obama’s White House

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Michael Tackett
Friday, Nov 7, 2008

Barack Obama once joked at a charity dinner that when Rahm Emanuel severed his middle finger, it almost rendered him mute.

Yesterday, Obama announced that Emanuel, an often-profane, combative Chicago congressman versed in the ways of the White House and Capitol Hill, would have one of the biggest voices in his administration: chief of staff.

It’s a role akin to being the chief operating officer of the nation, the gatekeeper to the Oval Office, a position that also requires the ability to deliver a forceful “no.”

“Rahm doesn’t have an issue with that,” said William Daley, a longtime Democratic powerbroker from Chicago who served as commerce secretary in the Clinton administration and has known Emanuel for 20 years.

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Emanuel’s appointment marked the first major staff announcement for the president-elect, who is off to a quick start on his preparations for his transition to office on Jan. 20.

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Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden will meet today with billionaire investor Warren Buffett, former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman William Donaldson, former Treasury Secretary and Citigroup Inc. senior counselor Robert Rubin, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and other members of his team of economic advisers.

Obama, 47, plans to hold his first press conference since winning the election over Republican Senator John McCain. On Nov. 10, he and his wife, Michelle, will meet at the White House with President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush.

`Getting Things Done’

Obama praised Emanuel, 48, a wiry tough guy who also dances ballet and whose slender build belies a muscular intensity. Republicans expressed skepticism.

“I announce this appointment first because the chief of staff is central to the ability of a president and administration to accomplish an agenda,” Obama said in a statement. “And no one I know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel.”

It is how Emanuel gets things done that has sparked numerous battles with Republicans. “This is an ironic choice for a president-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil, and govern from the center,” said Representative John Boehner, the House Republican leader.

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This article was posted: Friday, November 7, 2008 at 11:44 am

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