TRANSITION | Forming the next government

17 November 2008

The Future Cabinet

White House chief of staff

Rahm Emanuel (AP Images)
White House Chief of Staff-designate Rahm Emanuel listens to an Obama press conference November 7, 2008, in Chicago.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel

Rahn Emanuel, whose selection was announced November 6, 2008, was the first appointment made to the Obama administration. “I announce this appointment first because the chief of staff is central to the ability of a president and administration to accomplish an agenda,” President-elect Obama said in announcing the appointment. Emanuel, a Chicago native, served as a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and represented the Illinois 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives 2002-2008.

For more information, see “Illinois Congressman Is Obama’s First White House Appointment.

The Office of White House Chief of Staff, established 1952

Duties: The chief of staff is a senior aide to the president in a post that has been described as a gatekeeper and the second most powerful man in Washington. He typically is involved in the president’s major decisions and frequently represents the president during negotiations with congressional leaders. Within the White House, the chief of staff manages the staff, sets the tone for the office operations and coordinates the work of the many offices within the Executive Office of the President.

History: The position, which is filled at the discretion of the president, was first established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and, for a time, Jimmy Carter opted not to have a chief of staff.

Fun fact: Actor Martin Sheen has played both the president and the chief of staff in fictional accounts of the U.S. presidency, playing the chief of staff in the film The American President and the president on the popular television show The West Wing.

More information:

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