WASHINGTON--With Barack Obama's lead growing and John McCain's path shrinking, speculation is growing about who will serve in an Obama White House. On Sunday, ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) whether he would be interested in serving as Obama's chief of staff. Emanuel did not rule it out.
Former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta---a native of Chicago's North Side--is quietly overseeing Obama's transition operation, dealing with personnel, policy and process. The transition operation commissioned white papers on how to turn campaign promises into action; arranging security clearance for those involved in the handover; figuring decision time lines out how the executive office should be organized.
Obama has been pondering transition matters since at least last April, I have learned, with activity stepped up as it looked more likely he will win. The Obama team has been trying to keep all transition matters secret for fear of raising the hubris factor. But it is only prudent to plan and McCain is too.
When asked about serving as an Obama chief of staff, Emanuel said, "Three -- six years ago, the people on the North Side of Chicago took a bet on a young kid."
Mentioning men who held the seat before him, Emanuel said, "Members of Congress, representatives in that district were Dan Rostenkowski, Frank Annunzio, Rob Blagojevich, and they took a bet on a kid called Rahm Emanuel." That I take, having covered his first House race, as a reference to his being Jewish running in a North Side district where ethnic politics where at play, especially at the end.
"Now I've got gray hair, and I started this at 6'2'' and 250 pounds, and that's all I got left. So I'm looking forward to representing the people of the North Side of the city of Chicago,'' said Emanuel, who on Sunday was 5'8 and 147 pounds.
Other names being mentioned for Obama White House Chief of Staff are former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), whose own team made up the core of the Obama operation; real estate executive Valerie Jarrett, the confidant of Michelle and Obama who has known them for years and banker William Daley, the former Commerce Secretary and Mayor Daley's brother.
Emanuel now is the number four leader in the House. He is his own man. He could be on a path to be Speaker someday. If Obama leaves him where he is, Obama will have a pair of powerful enforcers in Congress: Emanuel in the House and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the number two man in the Senate. Emanuel's aleady done a White House staff stint, under President Clinton, where his office was next to the Oval Office.
Emanuel has his own operation and I don't see him returning to the White House in another staff role. Anyway, he is more valuable to Obama on the outside.
Jarrett's strength is her personal relationship to the Obamas. I see her in a White House role similiar to that of Bruce Lindsey, the Bill Clinton pal who served in both terms of Clinton White House as an advisor and who now helps run the Clinton Foundation. While at the White House, Lindsey helped handle Clinton patronage. A veteran of Mayor Daley's City Hall, Jarrett would do well in a Lindsey role. With her background in housing, she also could be a HUD secretary--but others could do that; few could fill the role Jarrett is playing now.
As a former Commerce Secretary who ran Al Gores presidential campaign, Daley may not have the itch to return to Washington as a White House chief of staff. He's a top executive at Chase, making a lot of money and mulling a run for governor of Illinois.
That leaves Daschle, who signed on the Obama presidential campaign from day one. The Obama political and senate operation contains key members of what had been Daschle's team; Obama Senate chief of staff Pete Rouse for one. Daschle's wife Linda is a top Washington lobbyist. Daschle, once the Senate leader only to loose re-election in 2004, would make a great comeback as Obama's chief of staff.
For transcript of the Stephanopoulos show, click below...