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Barack Obama Names Transition Team


Today, President-elect Barack Obama turned his attention from campaigning to governing. He named his transition team. NPR's David Schaper is in Chicago, where Barack Obama spent the day. And first of all, David, I understand that Obama has made his choice for White House Chief of Staff, and he's chosen Rahm Emanuel, the congressman from Chicago, to serve as his Chief of Staff. Is there anywhere any word on whether Congressman Emanuel has actually accepted that job?

DAVID SCHAPER: Well, we can confirm, Melissa, that he has been offered the job of Chief of Staff. And there are reports that he has accepted the job, but it is unconfirmed at this point. It's a critical, crucial post in the White House, and since Congressman Emanuel served as a top domestic policy adviser to President Clinton, he's an obvious choice. And since he's been in the U.S. House, he'd have been very close to Senator Obama through the years.

Now, Emanuel has only served in the House, though, since 2003. He's already ascended to the chair of the Democratic caucus. That's the fourth-ranking position among House Democrats. And it's such a high leadership spot that he might not want to trade that top leadership spot in a safe congressional district for a White House job that really can put people through the ringers.

So, it's something that I guess he may still be considering, but it would also be a kind of a slap in the face to the new administration if he were to turn it down, especially since it has been talked about for several days now.

BLOCK: Yeah.

SCHAPER: So, I would be surprised if he did not take the job.

BLOCK: David, tell us more about the transition team that was announced today.

SCHAPER: Well, there are three co-chairs for this transition team that the president-elect is putting into place. John Podesta, former Clinton White House chief of staff, is one of those chairs, and it's been known for quite some time that he would be working on transition issues. In fact, he's been part of a team that's been researching these issues for quite some time from the Obama campaign.

Valerie Jarrett is a second co-chair. She's a close friend of both Obamas who worked on Chicago mayor Richard Daley's staff. She's also chaired the Chicago Transit Authority and has a lot of government experience at a lot of different levels. And Pete Rauss is the third co-chair. He served as the Obama campaign's chief of staff.

And then there's an advisory panel that will work with that group and a staff of executives. That advisory panel includes former commerce secretary Bill Daley, a fellow Chicagoans, former EPA administrator Carol Browner, former transportation secretary Federico Pena, and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano.

BLOCK: It does sound, David, that like Barack Obama, he was trying to have a fairly calm day at home in Chicago today.

SCHAPER: It was mostly low key, at least in the morning in particular because he had breakfast with his family, saw his daughters, Malia and Sasha, off to school, then went for a workout at a neighborhood gym, a physical routine he's tried to maintain up as much as possible throughout the campaign. Then, it was quietly downtown to his campaign office to thank campaign staff and for some private meetings, briefings, and phone calls for the rest of the day.

BLOCK: OK, NPR's David Schaper in Chicago. Thanks so much.

SCHAPER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.
David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.