Updated at 1:45 p.m. on October 1.
President Obama, making what he joked was probably "the least suspenseful announcement of all time," today bade farewell to Rahm Emanuel and named longtime adviser Peter Rouse as his new White House chief of staff.
At no point during the event in the East Room was the reason for Emanuel's departure specifically mentioned -- that he wants to run for mayor of Chicago. The president said only that he is leaving "to explore other opportunities." And Emanuel talked a lot about his hometown, calling it "the greatest city" and one he wants to make "even greater." He even noted that the Chicago Bears are undefeated. But he never uttered the word "mayor."
Rouse, true to form, did not say a word. But he was praised by both the president and by Emanuel. The president called him his "wise, skillful and longtime counselor." And Emanuel called him "a good friend with great judgment."
Obama joked that Rouse and Emanuel obviously have "slightly different styles," referring to the notoriously bombastic persona of his outgoing chief versus Rouse, who “has never seen a microphone or a TV camera that he likes.”
Emanuel choked up when he talked about his parents and had to pause to regain his composure. He also joked about his famed propensity for obscenity, telling Obama "I'm sure you've learned some words that you never heard before -- and in an assortment of combination of words."
Several times, the president and Emanuel embraced as staffers and the cabinet applauded. Obama called him "a great friend of mine" and someone he will "miss dearly."
"In the last 20 months, Rahm has exceeded all of my expectations," Obama said in his final evaluation. "It is fair to say we could not have accomplished what we accomplished without Rahm."
Emanuel is expected to be back in Chicago by tomorrow to begin what he is calling a "listening tour" of the city's neighborhoods before he takes the next step to a mayoral announcement.