Obama offers chief of staff job to Emanuel

— -- CHICAGO — Barack Obama spent his first day as president-elect thanking the people who helped him win the job and lining up his White House team, starting with fiery congressman and Clinton administration veteran Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff.

Emanuel, 48, is considering the offer, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said on MSNBC.

Known for his combativeness and use of profanity, Emanuel has "got some very important qualities that you need in that job," Leon Panetta, a former Clinton chief of staff, said Wednesday.

"He understands the White House. He also understands Capitol Hill," said Panetta, a transition adviser. Emanuel has "a close relationship with Barack Obama."

A former political director for Clinton, Emanuel was first elected to Congress in 2002 and now is the leader of the House Democratic caucus. Emanuel led the Democrats' campaign effort in 2006 that reclaimed the party's House majority.

Obama named a transition staff led by longtime confidante Valerie Jarrett; his former Senate chief of staff, Pete Rouse; and John Podesta, one of several ex-Clinton aides helping the Democrat. Among the others from the Clinton years: Carol Browner, Environmental Protection Agency administrator; Bill Daley, Commerce secretary; and Federico Pena, Transportation and Energy secretary.

The group includes fresh faces such as Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, an early supporter, and Julius Genachowski, an Internet business executive and Harvard Law School classmate of Obama's.

After breakfast with his family and a workout, Obama held a conference call with his national campaign staff to thank them for their work. On a day the stock market dropped nearly 500 points, Obama made calls and held meetings in offices borrowed from Ariel Investments, a minority-owned firm founded by longtime friend John Rogers.

As president-elect, Obama is entitled to receive the classified President's Daily Brief, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said recently.

President Bush, speaking at the White House, repeated his promise of a smooth transition. Though he backed fellow Republican John McCain as his successor, Bush paid tribute Wednesday to Obama's historic rise as the nation's first black president.

"Many of our citizens never thought they would live to see this day," Bush said. "This moment is especially uplifting for a generation of Americans who witnessed the struggle for civil rights with their own eyes — and four decades later see a dream fulfilled."

First lady Laura Bush phoned Michelle Obama and invited her and daughters Malia and Sasha to visit the White House. A date for the visit will be set soon, said Michelle Obama's communications director, Katie McCormick Lelyveld.