Others (I fall more into this camp) are happy to see him out of the Congressional leadership, and in a staff role. This is, in part, because of the effect he has had in selecting and funding Congressional candidates, and in part because he seems to be a natural fit for the role of a tough-minded chief of staff in what will be a hostile, hard-knocks political environment.
There are other positives. It's good, in my opinion, to see Obama turning to people he was worked with along the way, to see a Chicago axis running through his key appointments, to know that he will dance with who brung him. It reinforces the image that Obama has cultivated of a president comfortable in his own skin.
But like so much else in this incipient presidency, it's pretty much impossible to know what this means. Is Obama's chief of staff going to play a policy role? Most of us are confident that the era of policy subjugated entirely to politics is finally over, but Obama's support for ethanol subsidies, "Clean coal," the FISA and other politically expedient positions leaves room for doubt of the impact of having a chief of staff for whom political expediency is a watchword.
Or is Emmanuel going to be an enforcer, leaving policy decisions to the President and his specialized advisers? The presence of Axelrod and Gibbs in the group of advisors suggests that Emmanuel's political role may be in a circle somewhere outside the center. Obama's "Team of Rivals" theme, would also indicate a minimal policy role for Emmanuel.
In every administration, the slots in which the most influential advisers will occupy is pretty much impossible to predict. The Chief of Staff slot has been filled by the leading adviser in the past, but the leading adviser has been found in any number of slots from ranging from the head of the NSA (Kissinger) to Attorney General (RFK) to seemingly insignificant offices (Rove).
So does Emmanuel pick really does us much of anything about what we can expect from the new administration? As with Obama's comment that people see him as a mirror, I think much of the reaction to Emmanuel's selection is projection. The only thing we can say for sure is that this is more evidence that Obama is not afraid to choose challenging personalities, rather than sycophants, for key roles. That alone is a welcome development.