Rahm Emanuel Reflects on First 100 Days

Obama: The First 100; Charles Gibson interviews Rahm EmanuelABC News Photo Illustration
ABC News' Charles Gibson interviews White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel on President Obama's 100th day in office.

On President Obama's 100th day in office, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel today weighed in on whether Obama is trying to change too much too soon, and evaluated whether the president got more than he bargained for.

"Did he essentially run for one job and get another?" ABC News' Charles Gibson asked Emanuel today.

VIDEO: Rahm Emanuel speaks to Charles GibsonPlay

"You know, we inherited these set of problems," Emanuel said. "That's not to point fingers, but the fact that that's the set of problems, and that's basically the hand he's been dealt."

"I think what we can extract from the first 100 days is that this is a president who is not afraid to meet the challenges," Emanuel later added. "I've always said that the best kind of metaphor is the president has a very open hand but a firm handshake."

Watch "World News With Charles Gibson" Tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET for the full report.

Visit ABC News' special section on the first 100 days for video, slideshows and analysis on President Obama's mile marker.

A Clinton administration veteran and a close political ally of Obama's from Chicago, Emanuel suggested it's been key for Obama to establish "the building blocks" early in his presidency that will shape later action, whether on the economy, health care or education. But he also implied that part of the job is to roll with the punches and take what comes.

"We didn't want to handle the H1N1 flu, but here it is and we're going to make sure we are doing what we're supposed to do," Emanuel said.

"You know, you run with an agenda to deal with the problems that are facing the country, or the opportunities, and then things happen while you're a president that will also give it definition," said the chief of staff.

Emanuel also resisted the suggestion of a flip-flop on the issue of so-called torture memos after telling ABC News' George Stephanopoulos the president did not believe that those who devised the interrogation policy should be prosecuted just a day before Obama opened the door to that possibility.

"George asked you specifically about whether or not those people who devised the techniques would be prosecuted," ABC News' Charles Gibson said to Emanuel today.

"No, he asked me -- he said about the policy guidance, and that was the answer I gave to the policy guidance," Emanuel responded.

Obama's First 100 Days: Emanuel Talks Post Partisanship

The chief of staff also weighed in on whether this is the era of post partisanship as promised.

"The cheap thing, Charlie, would be to say we're not getting cooperation," Emanuel said. "The fact is, on certain things, as I was about to say, on children's health care, and on national service, we have. On the budget just passed? No. On the Recovery Act, it's been well documented, we had three Republican senators.

"That doesn't stop the president's view or what he's asked me to do as chief of staff to continue to try," Emanuel said.

But Obama's right-hand man also emphasized the importance of staying focused beyond the Beltway rather than getting embroiled in the inner workings of Washington -- mirroring Obama's simultaneous remarks at a town hall in Missouri today where the president reiterated, "My campaign wasn't born in Washington."

"Washington remembered that the conversation we're having is not between this end of Pennsylvania Avenue and that end of Pennsylvania Avenue," Emanuel said. "It's that Washington remembered the most important conversation is between us and the American people, and that their wishes, their challenges, their needs are met."

ABC News' Karen Travers, Sunlen Miller and Jake Tapper contributed to this report.