Obama names transition team, cabinet next

What's ahead for Obama
November 5, 2008 8:42:08 PM PST
Barack Obama was elected the nation's first black president Tuesday night in a historic triumph that overcame racial barriers as old as America itself.Obama won the presidency handily in electoral votes - two to one over John McCain. He not only carried all the Democratic states but also won several states that went for President Bush four years ago. And for the first time since Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976, a Democrat has received more than 50-percent of the popular vote.

The work has already started toward shaping the Barack Obama administration even as he basks from Tuesday night's victory.

On the day after the big night, the names of two well-known Chicagoans emerged as major players.

After six hours of meetings, president-elect Obama left the AON building Wednesday night and headed home to Hyde Park. Obama has offered Congressman Rahm Emanuel the chief of staff job. Emanuel, who advised President Clinton, is undecided.

"I'm honored. And I appreciate this. I have a lot to weigh: the basis of public service, which I've given my life to, a career choice. But, most importantly, what I want to do as a parent," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, (D) Chicago.

As Obama started to put together his new administration, his friend and advisor, housing executive Valerie Jarrett, is joining Obama's three-member transition team. And Emanuel, known as 'Rahmbo' to friends and enemies alike, weighed an offer to run the White House, which could be both flattering and daunting considering the challenges facing the new president.

"The road ahead will be long. The climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term, but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you that we as a people will get there," said Sen. Obama, president-elect.

The long road and the steep climb began Wednesday with the appointment of Barack Obama's close friend and advisor Valerie Jarrett to a three-person transition team and an offer of White House chief of staff to Chicago congressman Rahm Emanuel, a savvy veteran of the Clinton White House in the 90s who is weighing the demands of the job on a father of three small children.

"This is our moment. This is our time. Yes, we can," said Obama.

Meanwhile, Obama's other friends and colleagues from Illinois were still a bit shell-shocked by the sheer magnitude of what he's accomplished.

"This is a bit surreal. I knew he was the right person to be president. I knew he had all the electoral potential because I ran up against it. But becoming president of the United States is no small task and so here we are," said Dan Hynes, state comptroller.

"Barack Obama is going to surround himself with some talented individuals. He can run this office in a manner in which we appreciate," said Jessie White, secretary of state.

Jesse White's name has been bandied about as a possible replacement for Obama in the U.S. Senate. But White says he's not interested. He wants one more term as secretary of state.

Dan Hynes, who got steamrolled by Obama in the Senate primary back in 2004, became one of the first local politicians to encourage Obama to run for president. He might be willing to take a job in Washington but he's also thinking about running for another statewide office in 2010.

Barack Obama's inspirational message of hope and change attracted record crowds to his rallies and record campaign contributions to his political fund from Americans hungry for change and willing to take a chance on a relative newcomer with a funny name and a mixed-racial heritage, including a generation of young people who engaged in the political process for the first time. That enabled Obama to do more than win. He trounced a well-known Republican maverick backed by ruthlessly-efficient GOP attack machine and in the process he turned the red-blue political map upside down.

The center of the political universe on a perfect autumn night was Grant Park in Chicago where tens of thousands of people cheer as the new president-elect, Barack Obama, took the stage with his wife, Michelle, and daughters, Malia and Sasha, a to deliver an acceptance speech that was heard around the world.

"If there is anyone out who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the deem of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer," said Obama.

Obama was delivering the newest version of an old message of change, a message that still resonates and, in fact, carried him to victory 21 months after he launches this improbable campaign in Springfield.

"A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Senator McCain. Senator McCain fought long and hard in this campaign, and he has fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves," said Obama.

The crowd included dozens of local politicians who watched in amazement as Obama climbed a steep ladder from the State Senate to the U.S. Senate and then up to the highest office in the land.

"This will go down in history as one of the most important nights in this country's history. I think what's going on today is obviously unprecedented. It's something that this city will never, ever forget," said Alexi Giannoulias, Illinois State Treasurer.

Obama's victory is giving Chicago a new prominence as Mayor Daley pursues his Olympic dream with a powerful ally in Washington beginning in January.


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