x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Challenge begins on day one for Obama

President-elect Barack Obama calls on Rahm Emanuel to serve as his White House chief of staff.

Rahm Emanuel, left, talks with Barack Obama in Chicago earlier this year.
Rahm Emanuel, left, talks with Barack Obama in Chicago earlier this year.

WASHINGTON // President-elect Barack Obama barely had time to savour his victory before he began filling out his new administration and getting a sobering look at some of the daunting problems he will inherit when he takes office in just 10 weeks. Mr Obama made a quick start with the transition yesterday, calling on the Rahm Emanuel, a fellow Illinois politician, to serve as White House chief of staff. While several Democrats confirmed that Mr Emanuel had been offered the job, it was not clear he had accepted. But rejection would amount to an unlikely public snub of the new president-elect swept toward power in an electoral college landslide. As president-elect, Mr Obama begins receiving highly classified briefings from top intelligence officials today. Already, Russia was threatening to put missiles alongside Poland, a US ally, if President George W Bush's plan for a missile defence shield in Europe is not repealed.

In Afghanistan, the US-backed President Hamid Karzai demanded that Mr Obama "put an end to civilian casualties" by changing US tactics to avoid air strikes in the hunt for militants.

Mr Obama's staff said he would address the media by the end of the week, but Cabinet announcements were not planned that soon. In offering the post of White House chief of staff to Mr Emanuel, the incumbent president turned to a fellow Chicago politician with a far different style from his own, a man known for his bluntness as well as his single-minded determination. Mr Emanuel was a political and policy aide in Bill Clinton's White House. Leaving that, he turned to investment banking, then won a Chicago-area House seat six years ago.

In Congress, he moved quickly into the Democratic leadership. As chairman of the Democratic campaign committee in 2006, he played an instrumental role in restoring his party to power after 12 years in the minority. Mr Emanuel maintained neutrality during the long primary battle between Mr Obama and Hillary Clinton. The day after the election there was already jockeying for cabinet appointments. Several Democrats said Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who won a new six-year term on Tuesday, was angling for secretary of state. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorised to discuss any private conversations.

Mr Kerry's spokeswoman, Brigid O'Rourke, disputed the reports. In light of the financial crisis, Mr Obama is expected to quickly name members of his economic team. The former treasury secretary Lawrence Summers, who served in the Clinton administration, and Timothy Geithner, president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, are among the names being mentioned for Treasury secretary. The treasury secretary Henry Paulson has pledged to work with Mr Obama to ensure a smooth transition.

He has already set up desks and phone lines at the department where Mr Obama's incoming Treasury team can work between now and the inauguration. *AP