When Barack Obama asked Congressman Rahm Emanuel to be his White House chief-of-staff, few political insiders were surprised. The Chicago politician and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus has been described as a profane, hyperactive attack dog and his supporters argue that this steamrolling personality would make him an effective, formidable gatekeeper to the Oval Office. Emanuel's lengthy political background and knowledge of individual lawmakers not to mention his fund-raising prowess don't hurt either. (Read "Who Will Be Obama's Pick For Treasury Secretary?")
48 years old, married to Amy Rule, a woman he met on a blind date. They have three children.
He studied ballet in high school and was offered a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet, but went to Sarah Lawrence College instead, where he earned a bachelor's degree. He has a master's degree in speech from Northwestern University.
As a teenager, he severed his right middle finger slicing meat at Arby's and went swimming in Lake Michigan before getting stitches. After the wound became severly infected, Emanuel had the top of his finger amputated and spent six weeks recovering.
Has served in the White House before, as a senior advisor to Bill Clinton. On Emanuel's 38th birthday, Clinton gave him a photo with the following tongue-in-cheek inscription: "Now Mr. President, how many times do I have to tell you, say it this way?" Clinton wrote. "And, by the way, wish me a happy birthday. Always gently, Rahm. 11/29/97."
Before working in the Clinton White House, Emanuel worked for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. He was first elected to Congress in 2002, and is the fourth-highest ranking House Democrat.
In between his stints in Washington, Emanuel got rich working as an investment banker. He once sat on the board of Freddie Mac and recuses himself from any Congressional votes on the mortgage giant.
Orchestrated the Democratic takeover of the House in 2006 and is known among colleagues as "Rahmbo."
A devout Jew, Emanuel was so intent on negotiating the passage of Congress's $700 billion-bailout bill that he got a special waiver from his rabbi to work through Rosh Hashanah.
Has been known to send out cheesecakes from Eli's Bakery in Chicago to campaign donors and the many Democratic candidates he has recruited over the years. Once, when a pollster made him angry, Emanuel sent him a dead fish.
His brother, Ari, is a high-powered Hollywood agent and the basis for Jeremy Piven's character in the HBO series Entourage, Ari Gold. Emmanuel himself was the basis for the character played by Bradley Whitford in The West Wing: Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman.
"We joke that someone should open a special trauma ward in Washington for people who've worked for Rahm."
Jose Cerda, former Clinton staffer, on the notoriously enormous demands that Emanuel puts on his staff (Rolling Stone, Oct. 2, 2006)
"My first impression was, 'This guy is going to help us win.' And he did. I doubt we could have done it without him."
Bill Clinton, recalling Emanuel's role in his 1992 campaign (Chicago Tribune, Nov. 12, 2006)
"Rahm smelled blood. He latched on like a pit bull and never let go."
Chuck Fant, press secretary for Representative John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina, on Emanuel's decision to attack the Bush administration for letting an Arab company manage U.S. Ports (L.A. Times, July 5, 2006)
"I don't need an alarm clock anymore."
David Axelrod, political consultant, on Emanuel's early-morning phone calls during the 2006 Congressional race (TIME, June 4, 2006)
"I said to him, 'You're not one of those tri-bathletes, are you, Mr. President? You know steam, sauna, shower?'"
Recalling a 2005 conversation with George Bush in which each took jabs at the other's athleticism (Fortune, Oct. 2, 2006)
"I'm weird. I do my office hours at grocery stores. I don't go do town halls."
On his unorthodox method of connecting with voters greeting and talking with them at supermarket entrances (New Yorker Conference, May 9, 2008)
"In the White House, you can be on the pitcher's mound or you can be in the catcher's position. Put points on the board. Show people you can govern. Deliver on what you said you were going to deliver on."
On Barack Obama's need for an aggressive agenda to fulfill his campaign promises (Politico, Aug. 27, 2008)
"I wake up some mornings hating me too."
On his reputation as a Democratic attack dog (Chicago Tribune, Nov. 12, 2006)