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Robert Gibbs praises Rahm Emanuel as 'energetic, inspirational leader'

The White House press secretary refuses to confirm that the chief of staff will resign Friday, but he does discuss his legacy.

September 30, 2010|By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — On the eve of Rahm Emanuel's expected resignation as chief of staff, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs described Emanuel as "the energetic, inspirational leader" of President Obama's West Wing team.

"His leadership, his energy has helped us accomplish so much," Gibbs said, listing the economic recovery and healthcare, credit card, Wall Street and student loan reform as top achievements. "There is not an important thing that has happened in this administration that we've been able to accomplish for the American people that has not involved heavily his signature."

Speaking at his daily press briefing, Gibbs engaged in verbal gymnastics as he declined to confirm Emanuel's looming departure even as he discussed his legacy. He only would say that Obama will make a personnel announcement in the East Room of the White House on Friday at just after 11 a.m.

The setting, typically the site of large White House functions and major events, was chosen because the announcement "will be of a significant-enough stature to warrant it," Gibbs said.

Gibbs' comments about Emanuel's role in the White House are noteworthy given the expectation that he will be running for mayor of Chicago, and that potential opponents will look for any opportunity to use that record against him.

Though Emanuel has a reputation of a profane, tough-nosed leader, Gibbs cast his boss in more flattering terms.

"Rahm has an incredible amount of energy every day. You go into a meeting, he has a list of what he wants to get done, he's focused on getting those things done, he always has ideas," he said. "The title chief of staff in many ways says it all. He has been the energetic, inspirational leader of us taking the president's promises and agenda and enacting them into law."

Also Friday it is expected that Obama will announce that Peter Rouse, currently a senior adivsor, will take Emanuel's place as chief of staff. Again, Gibbs would not confirm the news at the briefing, but did emphasize the close relationship Rouse has with the president.

"Pete has been with Senator-elect, Senator, President-elect, and now President Obama. There is a complete loyalty and trust with somebody like Pete," he said. "Pete's strategic sense has played a big part in the direction of virtually every big decision that's made inside of this White House. So I think the type of trust that the president and others throughout this administration have in Pete is enormous."

mmemoli@tribune.com

twitter.com/mikememoli

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