It’s Rahm’s White House and everyone else works for him, including Obama




Rahm Emanuel is continuing his p.r. offensive in the Washington Post today with a front-page article proclaiming him to be the smartest person in the White House. If only Obama had the sense to listen to Rahm, all would be good in the world.

Rahm must think he’s in trouble if his people are pushing out these kinds of stories. Almost the exact same story was written by Dana Milbank just a week or so ago (meaning, someone is pushing these stories out there). Everyone else in the White House, including the President, should be really worried that the Chief of Staff is trying to convince the world that he is smarter than the President, and it’s all the President’s fault for not listening to Rahm:

Rahm Emanuel is officially a Washington caricature. He’s the town’s resident leviathan, a bullying, bruising White House chief of staff who is a prime target for the failings of the Obama administration.

But a contrarian narrative is emerging: Emanuel is a force of political reason within the White House and could have helped the administration avoid its current bind if the president had heeded his advice on some of the most sensitive subjects of the year: health-care reform, jobs and trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts.

It is a view propounded by lawmakers and early supporters of President Obama who are frustrated because they think the administration has gone for the perfect at the expense of the plausible. They believe Emanuel, the town’s leading purveyor of four-letter words, a former Israeli army volunteer and a product of a famously argumentative family, was not aggressive enough in trying to persuade a singularly self-assured president and a coterie of true-believer advisers that “change you can believe in” is best pursued through accomplishments you can pass.

No thought, of course, is given to the idea of passing legislation that will actually work. What if politicians on the Hill, and in the White House, actually pursued accomplishments upon which they campaigned, too? What a concept.

This is one of my favorite passages:

When it came time for the economic stimulus plan, Emanuel — arguing that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste” — was the White House’s point man in the Senate. There, too, he valued the plausible over the perfect.

Snowe said he was “responsive” to her interest in removing $100 billion in spending from the stimulus bill. “He understood it operationally and legislatively, what needed to be accomplished, and was very straightforward,” she said.

At the time, the President’s approval rating was soaring and the economy was on the brink of collapse. Everyone was talking about another Great Depression, and economist were saying we needed $2 trillion in stimulus spending. The President’s own chair of his Council of Economic Advisers said we needed $1.2 trillion. So Emanuel’s first instinct was to compromise and go for less (less than what was needed to avert a Depression and keep unemployment far below 10%). If he were the hard-ass we’d all been led to believe he was, Emanuel would have sent Obama to Maine to campaign for the strongest bill possible, in order to get Snowe’s and Collin’s votes. That’s what a real tough Chief of Staff would have done, instead of caving as quickly as possible on the medicine needed to save the country from economic collapse. Emanuel made Obama look weak right off the bat — and the Republicans saw it immediately.

This p.r. offensive is offensive. Rahm is making himself more important than the President and it’s making Obama look bad. If I understand the role of the President’s Chief of Staff, making the boss look weak and a bad decision-maker isn’t part of the job. Any Chief of Staff who does that shouldn’t keep his job.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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