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Meet Rahm Emanuel

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Does it seem strange that one day we see White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel speaking on This Week about the Barton gaffe, and a few short days later we hear rumors flying that Emanuel is tired of the strain of White House work and will probably resign? It seems strange to me.

Rahm Emanuel has always been an outspoken sort of a guy with a reputation as a shrewd party operative, millionaire investment banker, and congressional leader. In Chicago he worked for Democrat Paul Simon's 1984 election to the U.S. Senate, was the national campaign director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 1988, and then was senior advisor and chief fundraiser for Richard M. Daley's victorious campaign for Mayor of Chicago in 1989. He had worked also for Ed Rendell, Mayor of Philadelphia, Mayor Bob Lanier in Houston, and others, all of whom he considered “clients.” He made at that time the claim for himself that he was offering a new, more focused Democratic philosophy, to bring values to the party without hesitation, and to be more centrist on the economic front.

During the successful run of Bill Clinton for the White House, Rahm Emanuel was appointed to direct the campaign's finance committee. Sources make the claim that Emanuel insisted Clinton spend a great deal of time in fundraising, before beginning his campaign in New Hampshire. Clinton followed that advice. As President-elect Bill Clinton celebrated the 1996 win at a victory dinner Emanuel relieved his pent-up tensions by repeatedly plunging a steak knife into the table, speaking one at a time the name of Clinton’s greatest betrayers, as he called them, and shouting “Dead, Dead, Dead!” after each name. Some time later, as Clinton was in some danger of impeachment over his trysts with intern Monica Lewinsky, as then British Tony Blair was about to present a pro-Clinton speech, Emanuel very loudly imparted to Blair, “Don’t f**k up!” At the time Blair and Clinton laughed, but later they indicated that after a while Emanuel “mellowed out.” Rahm Emanuel reviewing the Lewinsky issue is known to have believed that Clinton had political opponents who were determined not to allow Clinton to succeed.

In Congress, appointed by then House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in 2006, Emanuel served as Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 2006 cycle. Under his leadership, Democrats gained 30 seats in the House without losing a single incumbent and ushered in a new Democratic majority for the first time in more than a decade. As chair, Emanuel led the Democratic Caucus in fulfilling its campaign promise to pass legislation reflecting the values and priorities of the American people.

I mentioned that Chief of Staff Emanuel was outspoken. Indeed, he evoked the wrath of politician/celebrity Sarah Palin when he referred to the words of Republican Representative Joe Barton from Texas. As we recall, Barton said in a House hearing last week that he was “ashamed” by the deal brokered between the Obama administration and BP to set up a $20 billion compensation fund for Gulf Coast residents affected by the notorious oil spill. He called the money placed in escrow “a $20 billion slush fund unprecedented in American history.” Emanuel made the point that Barton’s words were not, in fact, off the cuff, as Barton claimed during his apology a few hours later, but rather they were prepared remarks. Emanuel was critical of Republicans who support big business at the expense of individual Americans saying, “That was not a political gaffe — those were prepared remarks. That is a philosophy.” Emanuel said on ABC’s This Week, “That is an approach to what they see. They see the aggrieved party here is BP, not the fishermen.” Sarah Palin then deemed Emanuel “shallow, narrow minded, political, and irresponsible as they come!” Emanuel describes Barton and. similarly, the sharp tongued Rand Paul whose racist remarks recently made media prime time, as a reflection of the Republican mindset. He says they think that the government is the problem.

An issue with Rahm Emanuel is the broken campaign promise within the American two-party system to “reach across the aisle,” to transcend political differences, and to work together for the common good. While liberals blame the Republicans for a lack of objectivity, there are those who place the blame on Emanuel, who they claim seeks unity on the one hand while accusing the Republicans of being "in bed with big business" on the other.

More controversy developed in January when Emanuel chastised liberals for wanting to run anti-Democratic media ads showing moderate Democrats wavering on health care. He called them “f**king retards," prompting Sarah Palin to call for his resignation. The White House made no comment.

Now we see that rumors have been circulating that Rahm Emanuel is really feeling the strain; the claim is repeated that the pressures of sparring with Republicans and Democrats alike is taking its toll. The London Telegraph suggests he won’t make it to the mid-terms. The highly critical Telegraph says, "…it's not working!” but that they [the Obama administration] won’t let him go, owing to the assurance of a bad appearance, a bad veneer. As a dynamic and forthright leader, Emanuel has been a lightning rod for critics. Emanuel himself has conceded he at first didn’t want the Chief of Staff position. He told 60 Minutes, "It's seven days a week, constant. And even at night, you're never really calm sleeping. No matter how exhausted, you're not calm. You're never… kinda off." He continued, "[The job is] a tremendous amount of pressure. And it's a tremendous amount to ask of your family."

The White House Chief of Staff, called by some the second most powerful man in Washington, is the highest ranking member of the Executive Office of the President of the United States; a senior aide to the President. The Chief of Staff is responsible for overseeing the actions of the White House staff, managing the president's schedule, and deciding who is allowed to meet with the president. The Chief of Staff has sometimes been labeled "The Gatekeeper" and "The Co-President."

Most recently The White House Chief of Staff referred to the CEO of British Petroleum yachting as the well-documented Gulf oil leak continued pouring high density crude oil into the ocean. He said, “…And I think we can all conclude that Tony Hayward is not going to have a second career in PR consulting. This has just been part of a long line of PR gaffes and mistakes.” He said that allowing himself to be photographed yachting was a big mistake on the part of CEO Tony Hayward.

At issue then is the question, will this dynamic chief of the White House staff maintain his role in the administration, to continue his contributions, or will he succumb to stress and rancor? A powerful man, a powerful Chicagoan, and a powerful Democrat, we can’t imagine an Obama White House without Rahm Emanuel. As we see, Rahm wasn't built in a day!

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About John Lake

John Lake had a long and successful career in legitimate and musical theater. He moved up into work behind the camera at top motion pictures. He has done a smattering of radio, and television John joined the Blogcritics field of writers owing to a passion for the liberal press, himself speaking out about the political front, and liberal issues. Now the retired Mr. Lake has entered the field of motion picture, television, and video game (now a daily gamer!) critique. His writing is always innovative and immensely readable!
  • John Wilson

    The Jones Act doesn’t apply in this spill, and in any case no one has applied for a Jones Act waiver. That hasn’t stopped opportunistic politicians and TV hotair vendors from posturing and expounding, however.

  • John Lake

    To suspend the Jones Act, and let ships from other nations aid in this emergency seems like a sensible idea. But then, to choreograph a number of foreign vessels, who may have agendas to fulfill could be chaotic.
    Laws should not be lightly abridged.
    In any case, it’s surprising that the foreign ships haven’t been authorized admission already.

    Silas Kain:
    “It is time for our elected officials to be Americans first and politicians second. It’s time to put a cap on corporate election funding and break open the secrets in Washington which fuel the gridlock. Enough is enough. It’s time for 2 to 3 million Americans to march to Washington, join hands and form a blockade around the Capitol. It’s time for members of Congress to preserve, defend and protect the United States Constitution – not their damn bank accounts.”
    Some of what you write is aimed primarily at Republican faults. The Republicans support “big business”
    to the detriment of the populace, as though it were morally correct to do so. Since they have some degree of profit motive, for their campaign funding, et al, some secrecy shouldn’t surprise us.
    From their you whirl around to support the Tea Party People who are anxious to bring handguns into Washington to overthrow the government, this based mainly on painful unexpected tax increases. They never consider the crises facing the government, and no one of late has recalled the financial breakdown in Europe, and it’s impact on what was a greatly improved economy.

  • “Obama seems to have let BP hang themselves with their own rope, namely the lies and evasions they promulgated. That was why he could saddle them with this advantageous settlement: $20billion for starters . . .”

    Interesting take, John Wilson. I wish I could have believed it.

    Even so, drastic steps should have been taken sooner, much sooner, like reneging the Jones Act. You don’t play with people’s lives and take horrendous risks willfully for political or economic advantage.

    Nice try, though. It ranks with the best of conspiracy theories.

  • If the unemployment rate goes down below 7% by 2012, all the talk of a doomed presidency may seem irrelevant. If unemployment stays high, Obama may deserve to lose. [Not that any current potential GOP candidate could do any better, and mosst would do worse.]

    By the way, chiefs of staff rarely stay more than a couple of years. It’s a bear of a job and burns people out fast.

  • John Wilson


    All of a sudden all those small government republicans are criticising Obama for not acting sooner and bullying BP weeks ago. How strange. What happened to “get the government off businesses back!”

    The republican policy of sabotaging regulation is responsible for the Deepwater oil fiasco.

    Obama seems to have let BP hang themselves with their own rope, namely the lies and evasions they promulgated. That was why he could saddle them with this advantageous settlement: $20billion for starters, the money to be disbursed by a government guy, and $100million income compensation for oil workers idled by the moratorium.

    It was a hell of a good deal. Just compare it to Exxon Valdez!

  • Hillary cost Barack Obama a second term? OK, your hatred for Clinton eclipses the truth. This Presidency is in jeopardy on all fronts. Unless No-drama Obama comes out swinging with DRAMATIC changes in policies and personnel, his chances for a second term are gone.

    The office of POTUS has become too big to fail. It is a bureaucracy in and of itself. It’s clear that a single Chief of Staff may be a core problem. Perhaps A Chief of Staff with two deputies: domestic & foreign. If I were Barack Hussein Obama, the first order of business would be to convene a council of the Presidents at Camp David. Bring all the former POTUS folk in. Put them around a table and forge some direction. Second, bring Congressional Leadership in to the discussion from both parties. All at Camp David, with the old POTUS group and hash things out. And NO ONE leaves Camp David without a united accord.

    It is time for our elected officials to be Americans first and politicians second. It’s time to put a cap on corporate election funding and break open the secrets in Washington which fuel the gridlock. Enough is enough. It’s time for 2 to 3 million Americans to march to Washington, join hands and form a blockade around the Capitol. It’s time for members of Congress to preserve, defend and protect the United States Constitution – not their damn bank accounts.

    And, if all else fails, it is time to have a serious, civil discussion on how best to dissolve this Union.

  • “As North Korea is preparing to attack the world . . .”

    Are you frickin’ serious? They’re just like a spoiled brat, putting up a temper tantrum in order to get attention.

    And what’s wrong with Chavez? And how should this be our problem?

    There isn’t any inability to deal with any of those problems, John, just lack of political will and vision of the future.

    I don’t know about your views of the domestic agenda, but in terms of foreign policy you do seem to be stuck in the fifties, John Foster Dulles’s times.

    It’s time to wake up.

  • John Lake

    Ms Clinton hasn’t a clue. As North Korea is preparing to attack the world, she chooses to treat them like a crying baby. They sent her home with her tail dangling, and hubby Bill had to intervene, at his own expense.
    She hasn’t the talent to deal with Israel/Palestine. Hell, She hasn’t the talent to deal with Chavez in Venezuela!

    Obama is handling the Gulf Oil Spill properly. The Republicans would let BP off the hook, and let the population pay for the mess.

  • Hillary may cost him a second term?

    Come on, John. She’s been the least controversial of the lot.

    Don’t you see the Dems are losing their seats mainly for having sided with the bailout? Not to mention the President being all over the map – from the Health Care fiasco to the rather inept handling of the Gulf disaster – rather than focusing on eradicating unemployment.

  • John Lake

    Emanual in fact may be one of the dominant figures in the White House. He is outspoken, bold and forthright. He forms opinions, and thrusts them upon whomever may be influenced. A guy like that is sure to attract attention.
    Obama has a great staff, although Hillary has been a disappointment. She may cost him a second term.

  • If he is indeed, Siadina, a person of integrity, then I don’t envy him.

  • siadina

    I am a huge fan of Rahm Emanuel’s. Common sense and logic are in such short supply in the Republican party (and sometimes even within the ranks of Democrats) that it must take a herculean effort for him to function every day.

  • “, we can’t imagine an Obama White House without Rahm Emanuel.”

    Indeed, we can’t imagine Obama without Geithner and Sumner too. And don’t forget the every sleazy Bernanky.

    Sorry to piss on your parade, John, but your picture of this administration is extremely rosy. It’s time to take your blinders off.

  • If the rumblings in the Democrat Party for Hillary to step down and run continue, it would not surprise me if Barack Obama turned to Bill Clinton to be Chief of Staff. It’s time for a redefinition of CoS.

  • Surprised the opposition hasn’t noted his accomplished record as a ballet dancer in school. That’s the only good thing I can say about Rahm Emmanuel at this point.

  • What is it about your article, John, that makes me really start to like this guy?


  • If he cannot do the job, he is not helping the President; however, his potential departure will be damaging no matter what, so I hope he can find a way to get the job done and stick around at least until 2012.