Friday, November 07, 2008

Hope, Change, and Rahm Emanuel

One of these three things is not like the others.

Obama and Rahm Emanuel at a rally

John Edwards likes to say there are "two Americas". I'd like to propose there are two Barack Obamas.

One is the "post-partisan" and "new politics" guy full of "hope" and "change."

The other is the partisan, far-left, cut-throat politician seen via his voting record, his policy proposals, and his campaign tactics.

A big question that now presents itself is which of these two he will turn out to be once in the White House.

I think we should all reserve final judgment until after he's sworn in and actually done some things, but the initial signs are troubling.

Obama has tapped Rahm Emanuel to be his chief of staff.

Emanuel is no post-partisan hope-and-change politician. He's a hyper-partisan, Washington-insider Democrat, famous for his foul-mouthed abrasive style.

For those looking for a new kind of politics, Rahm Emanuel is very much like a Democratic version of Karl Rove or Tom Delay.

Consider some anecdotes:

The best Rahm Emanuel story is not the one about the decomposing two-and-a-half-foot fish he sent to a pollster who displeased him. It is not about the time - the many times - that he hung up on political contributors in a Chicago mayor's race, saying he was embarrassed to accept their $5,000 checks because they were $25,000 kind of guys. No, the definitive Rahm Emanuel story takes place in Little Rock, Ark., in the heady days after Bill Clinton was first elected President.

It was there that Emanuel, then Clinton's chief fund-raiser, repaired with George Stephanopoulos, Mandy Grunwald and other aides to Doe's, the campaign hangout. Revenge was heavy in the air as the group discussed the enemies - Democrats, Republicans, members of the press - who wronged them during the 1992 campaign. Clifford Jackson, the ex-friend of the President and peddler of the Clinton draft-dodging stories, was high on the list. So was William Donald Schaefer, then the Governor of Maryland and a Democrat who endorsed George Bush. Nathan Landow, the fund-raiser who backed the candidacy of Paul Tsongas, made it, too.

Suddenly Emanuel grabbed his steak knife and, as those who were there remember it, shouted out the name of another enemy, lifted the knife, then brought it down with full force into the table.

- Elisabeth Bumiller, in the New York Times, 1997

[Chicago Democrats] captured the state Senate. This despite running a ticket made up of ward bosses' children and in-laws. I remember sitting on my couch in Chicago and thinking, "If the Democrats want to turn it around, they need to take some lessons from the machine around here. Chicago Democrats have no scruples. They treat political offices as feudal inheritances. They shake down contributors like a corrupt pope selling indulgences. They're sleazy, they're arrogant.

That night, on the northwest side, Rahm Emanuel was elected to Congress. A former Clinton whiz kid who'd gotten his start as a fundraiser for Mayor Richard M. Daley, Emanuel was connected -- in the three years after leaving the White House (where he'd helped push through NAFTA), he earned $16 million putting together Wall Street mergers. He was also zealously partisan. He had once owned a consulting business devoted to finding skeletons in Republican closets.


As head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he raised millions of dollars by browbeating donors and candidates with cellphone calls that invariably ended, "F*** you. I love you." Emanuel was so effective that not only did his party win back Congress, he was able to get a Chicago Tribune reporter to write a book giving him most of the credit. Naftali Bendavid, the Tribune's deputy Washington bureau chief, was given "insider access" to Emanuel's operation, expecting to write a newspaper article. When the Democrats triumphed, he expanded it into "The Thumpin': How Rahm Emanuel and the Democrats Learned to Be Ruthless and Ended the Republican Revolution."


Freed from the constraints of his stuffy newspaper, Bendavid is able to ratchet up the parental guidance rating from G to R, which is essential to any well-rounded profile of Emanuel. As they said about Buddy Hackett in Vegas, Emanuel works blue. "F***" is one of the most versatile words in English, but he seems to have discovered new grammatical and linguistic uses for it. Washington is "F***nutsville." A Republican congressman is a "knucklef***."

- Edward McClelland in Salon, May 2008

It's a beautiful Saturday afternoon in October, and, as Republican Representative Chris Shays drives between churches in his affluent Connecticut district, he is talking about the possibility of being knifed. "Rahm Emanuel--if I got a knife, it would be in my belly," he says, referring to the combative head of the Democratic Caucus. "With Nancy," he continues, alluding to the House speaker, "it would be in my back." He then goes on to tell a story about an encounter that took place two years ago at the House gym. At the time, Emanuel was head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which was targeting Shays--a Rockefeller Republican who represents a Democratic district--for defeat. In the gym's locker room, Shays approached Emanuel and said he was "really disappointed" that, with so many races to choose from, the DCCC had chosen to target him. Emanuel, Shays recalls, "put his hands on both shoulders, looked at me square in the eyes, and said, 'Look, with all due respect, from one friend to another, we're going to spend a f*****g three million dollars to defeat you.' That was his words. Verbatim."

- Suzy Khimm, in The New Republic, Nov. 2008

With that in mind, President-elect Obama had a shortlist of one when it came to choosing his White House Chief of Staff; Rahm Emanuel, a politician so ferocious that even his own mother calls him by his nickname of "Rahmbo".

If the Democratic Congressman accepts the job as Mr Obama's enforcer, Mr Emanuel, universally characterised as a foul-mouthed attack dog who can end the career of anyone who stands in his way, will serve as a perfect counterpoint to the sugar-coated Mr Obama.

Mr Emanuel, 48, who served as an aide to President Clinton, has proved in the past that he bows to no-one when it comes to getting the job done, as Tony Blair discovered when he visited the White House at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998.

As he prepared for a public appearance with the president, Mr Blair was warned by Mr Emanuel: "This is important. Don't **** it up."

- The Telegraph, Nov. 2008

What is more, this is a guy who, upon learning about the Mark Foley sex scandal of 2006 "shopped it around" to news outlets for political advantage rather then bring it up with the Ethics committee. [1] Then, when Emanuel learned that Foley's replacement, Tim Mahoney, was having a sex scandal of his own, he "work[ed] with Mahoney to keep the matter from hurting his re-election campaign" [2].

And then we have this from ABC News:

President-elect Barack Obama's newly appointed chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, served on the board of directors of the federal mortgage firm Freddie Mac at a time when scandal was brewing at the troubled agency and the board failed to spot "red flags," according to government reports reviewed by

According to a complaint later filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Freddie Mac, known formally as the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, misreported profits by billions of dollars in order to deceive investors between the years 2000 and 2002.

Emanuel was not named in the SEC complaint (click here to read) but the entire board was later accused by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) (click here to read) of having "failed in its duty to follow up on matters brought to its attention."

Washinton insider. Failed to stop corruption at Freddie Mac. Used one sex scandal for political gain, tried to cover up another. Plays abrasive, strong man, big money politics.

As David Keene puts it: "You might hire Rahm to blow up the bridge. I don't know if you’d hire him to build it."

Rahm Emanuel represents Washington at it's worst. This is not post-partisan. This is not change. This is not hope.

1 comment:

The Ex said...

Oh no! He swears. What ever the fuck will we do.

Give it a break, dude.