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!