US & Canada

White House 'enforcer' Rahm Emanuel quits post

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Media captionBarack Obama: "This is a bittersweet day here at the White House"

US President Barack Obama has announced the resignation of his hard-hitting chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who is poised for a bid to be mayor of Chicago.

Mr Obama said the "least suspenseful announcement of all time" was a bittersweet moment for the White House.

Pete Rouse, who served as Mr Obama's chief of staff in the US Senate, will be Mr Emanuel's interim replacement.

The US president described Mr Emanuel as "one of a kind".

"We could not have accomplished what we've accomplished without Rahm's leadership," Mr Obama said.

The position of chief of staff is considered one of the most influential in the White House, and presidential aides said prior to Mr Obama's announcement that Mr Emanuel's departure will be a loss to the administration.

In an emotional news conference in the East Room of the White House, Mr Emanuel, 50, said: "I know that I pushed you all very hard. But I did it in service to the president and I believe that our whole country is better off for it."

Mr Emanuel said he was sad to be leaving his position in Washington, but wasexcited to be heading "home to Chicago - the greatest city in the greatest country in the world".

Mr Emanuel, flanked by his replacement, said Mr Rouse "brings decades of experience" to the position of chief of staff.

The president also complimented Mr Rouse saying: "There is a saying around the White House saying, 'Let's let Pete fix it.'"

Mr Emanuel's voice soon took a shakier, more emotional tone, when he began talking about his family's immigrant roots in the US.

"I want to thank you for the opportunity to repay some of the small blessings this country has given my family," Mr Emanuel said.

Image caption Mr Emanuel (r) has a reputation for brashness and abrasiveness

'Energetic, inspirational'

Mr Emanuel - a native of Chicago who represented Illinois's 5th district in Congress for six years - will attempt to replace Chicago mayor Richard M Daley, since Mr Daley announced on 7 September that he would be stepping down.

Mr Daley has been mayor of Chicago since 1989.

Mr Emanuel has shown himself to be a strong force in the White House, considered by some as Mr Obama's chief enforcer.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said of him: "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."

Mr Emanuel has a reputation as a fierce figure with short temper. His parting gift from White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee was a dead fish - a reference a time when Mr Emanuel sent a dead fish to a pollster he had a dispute with.

The fish was an Asian carp, an aggressive fish currently infiltrating Chicago's waterways.

Pete Rouse, 64, is a very different figure, shunning the spotlight. But analysts say he has built up strong relationships around Washington over a long period and is a good troubleshooter.

"Pete has never seen a microphone or a TV camera that he likes," Mr Obama joked during the press conference.

Mr Rouse, who holds degrees from the London School of Economics and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, gained the respect of lawmakers and was even sometimes referred to as the 101st senator in the 100-seat chamber during his years serving as chief of staff to former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle.

When asked about Mr Rouse, Mr Gibbs said: "Pete has been with senator-elect, senator, president-elect and now President Obama. There is a complete loyalty and trust with somebody like Pete."

However, Mr Rouse will face competition for the post when it becomes available on a permanent basis, likely to be after the 2 November congressional elections.

Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, the vice-president's aide Ron Klain, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, and ex-Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, may all be considered.

Mr Obama may wait until after the mid-term elections to permanently fill the position of chief of staff because the president is poised to face a very different political landscape in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

In recent weeks, other top officials have announced their departures, including budget director Peter Orszag and economist Lawrence Summers, who is set to leave his position as the director of the National Economic Council at the end of the year.

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