LIZ SIDOTI and NEDRA PICKLER
Barack Obama is signaling a shift in tactics and temperament as he moves from candidate to president-elect, picking sharp-elbowed Washington insiders for top posts. His choice Thursday for White House chief of staff — Rahm Emanuel, a fiery partisan who doesn't mind breaking glass and hurting feelings — is a significant departure from the soft-spoken, low-key aides that "No-Drama Obama" surrounded himself with during his campaign. And transition chief John Podesta, like Emanuel, is a former top aide to Bill Clinton and a tough partisan infighter, though less bombastic than the new chief of staff.
The selections are telling for Obama, who campaigned as a nontraditional, almost "post-partisan" newcomer. People close to him say the selections show that Obama is aware of his weaknesses as well as his strengths and knows what he needs to be successful as he shifts from campaigning to governing.
"No one I know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel," said Obama, who also spoke by phone with nine world leaders Thursday.
Obama, who survived a long contest with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, also has made it clear he will rely heavily on veterans of her husband's eight-year administration, the only Democratic presidency in the past 28 years. Podesta was President Clinton's chief of staff, and several other former Clinton aides are on Obama's short lists for key jobs, Democratic officials say. Some of them helped write a large briefing book on how to govern, assembled under Podesta's supervision.
Obama himself brims with self-confidence, to the point that some people view him as arrogant. But to a greater degree than many presidents, he appears willing to lean on Washington insiders associated with other politicians.
Still, he is also certain to bring to the White House a cadre of longtime aides.
Emanuel accepted Obama's offer with a gesture of bipartisanship, addressing part of his statement to Republicans. "We often disagree, but I respect their motives," Emanuel said. "Now is a time for unity, and, Mr. President-elect, I will do everything in my power to help you stitch together the frayed fabric of our politics, and help summon Americans of both parties to unite in common purpose."
That would come as news to some Republicans.
In contrast to Obama's collegial style and that of his top campaign advisers, Emanuel is known as a foul-mouthed practitioner of brass-knuckled politics who relishes both conflict and publicity. He once mailed a dead fish to a political foe.
But he also earned a reputation for pragmatic efficiency, whether the goal was winning House elections for Democrats or working with Republicans to enact Clinton's centrist political agenda.
"Rahm knows Capitol Hill and has great political skills," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "He can be a tough partisan but also understands the need to work together."
House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio was less kind. He called his appointment an "ironic choice for a president-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil and govern from the center."
Democrats say Obama is self-assured enough to acknowledge his limitations by the appointments he makes.
"I know what I'm good at. I know what I'm not good at. I know what I know, and I know what I don't know," Obama once told Pete Rouse as he prepared to move up from Illinois state senator to the U.S. Senate.
Thus, when Obama was elected to the Senate, he picked Rouse, a press-averse former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, to run his Capitol Hill office. When Obama embarked on his presidential campaign, he chose advisers with presidential campaign experience like the studious David Plouffe as campaign manager and the even-keeled David Axelrod as chief strategist.
Axelrod is likely to get a job as a top adviser at the White House, and Robert Gibbs is the likely pick for press secretary. Gibbs has been Obama's longtime spokesman and confidant, at his side from his 2004 Senate campaign through the long days on the presidential campaign trail.
In Emanuel, Obama has chosen a fellow Chicagoan who intimately knows both the White House and Congress, as a former political and policy aide for President Clinton and a current Illinois congressman who is the No. 4 Democrat in the House.
Obama frequently sought Emanuel's advice during the presidential race, according to one campaign official.
Emanuel said he weighed family and political considerations before accepting the job on Thursday, according to Democratic officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid angering Obama. He will have to resign his congressional seat and put aside hopes of becoming speaker of the House.
With the selection, Democrats say Obama seemed to recognize he may have his work cut out for him in taming the House: Liberals may try to push their own agenda, not necessarily Obama's. They say Emanuel is someone who not only can stand up to Congress but also maneuver through it to achieve a chief executive's goals.
And, Emanuel provides something Obama lacks — a temperament and willingness to snarl, even at his boss' allies.
To varying degrees, the party's liberals and labor leaders are wary of Emanuel. He helped Clinton push the North American Free Trade Agreement through the House, angering the left.
Nonetheless, Democrats praised the selection. Said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.: "He is the perfect choice. He knows the Hill, he knows substance, he knows politics, and most importantly, he can get the job done."
Even before Tuesday's election, Obama had turned to Podesta to start laying the foundation of an Obama administration. His role became official Wednesday with the announcement that he, along with Rouse and close Obama family friend Valerie Jarrett would lead the transfer of power and chair a transition advisory board stocked with longtime Democratic Party hands.
Separately on Thursday, Obama met privately at the FBI office in Chicago with U.S. intelligence officials, preparing to become commander in chief. He received his first president's daily brief, a document written mostly by the Central Intelligence Agency and including the most critical overnight intelligence. It is accompanied by a briefing from top intelligence officials.
Later, Obama met with his transition team leaders who are tasked with building his entire administration in 10 weeks.
Obama advisers said the president-elect was emphasizing care over speed, with no plans to announce Cabinet positions this week.
Names of people said to be under consideration by the transition team spread through the rumor mill. Some Democrats say retired Marine Gen. James Jones was being discussed as secretary of state. Also, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican who endorsed Obama, was said to be interested in becoming education secretary.
Obama has indicated he'd like a bipartisan Cabinet, and Republicans who are potential candidates include Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel and Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar.
The president-elect planned his first public appearances since his victory for Friday, a meeting with economic advisers followed by a news conference. Obama and his wife, Michelle, also planned to visit the White House on Monday at President Bush's invitation.
Obama planned to stay home through the weekend, with a blackout on news announcements so that he and his staff can rest after a grueling campaign and the rush of their win Tuesday night. He is planning a family getaway to Hawaii in December before they move to the White House — and to honor his grandmother, who died Sunday at her home there.
Liz Sidoti reported from Washington. AP Special Correspondent David Espo and Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn in Washington and Beth Fouhy in Chicago contributed to this report.
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