Sunday, November 9, 2008

Rahm

Lot of discussion in Swampland comments about the selection of Rahm Emmanuel as Chief of Staff. Emmanuel is seen by many in the netroots as an enemy--a DLCer, insider, opponent of the 50 state strategy, worse, trying to win purple seats by choosing candidates who don't support progressive principles, and, worst of all, supporting incumbents is solid blue seats who don't support progressive principles.  In some ways, the "better Democrats" formulation is directed against Emmanuel and others of his ilk in the Congress.

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.


8 comments:

James, Los Angeles said...

I'm generally pleased with the pick of Rahm, for the reasons that you mentioned. The guy's got balls of steel. I think it's a big plus that he is an insider, knows how the White House works, deep deep connections in Congress, and he's generally well respected by the press. And he's very, very loyal. Also glad he'll be out of Dem House leadership. But his deep connections in insider DC I think will prevent the kind of concerted toxic trashing that the Clintonians were greeted with.

Little discussed, but another excellent choice is Robert Gibbs, press sec. Obama's got some great press people, know what they are doing, respected by the DC press, also very loyal to Obama. So that bodes well for a decent honeymoon period, despite how the Republicans will try to undermine him.

It appears he's put a lot of thought, so far, into his choices. The only bad choice is Stephanie Cutter for transition spox. Many in the press detest her.

Jay Ackroyd said...

Gibbs is a stark contrast to the Ari/Scottie stupid stooge. More like Jody Powell(?) under Carter.

Jay Ackroyd said...

And I have to say that it's really funny that a guy they tried to caricature as a Messiah picks Emmanuel as his chief representative on earth.

James, Los Angeles said...

I dunno about Powell. Gibbs has been around DC for awhile. Ari wasn't a stooge really he was a participant. He knew exactly what he, and they, were doing. He's a nasty lowdown bushie still.

Well, you know, with Rahm around Obama can continue to play the Messiah part a lot easier, while still getting things done. He'll be able to stay out of the mud with Rahm having his back all the way. That's exactly why I like the pick so much.

Jay Ackroyd said...

I agree with you, James. But that requires us to project how he'll use him.

Point taken on Powell and Ari.

James, Los Angeles said...

Well, hey, if you can't speculate before the fact, then when *can* you speculate? And if the entire DC media can speculate, why the hell can't *we* speculate?

Anyway, the dude seems to like to think things through, which is a very, very good thing, so Rahm can keep the jackals at bay while Obama consults and thinks about the best course of action. That should keep his Messiah status intact for quite a while, don't you think?

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

My feelings about Rahm could be found back in 2006 on the Howie-Firedoglake fund raising posts for liberal congresscritters (and wannabees).

I am happier with him being Obama's chief of staff, rather than being in the House leadership.

For me, Rahm is slightly better than Steny Hoyer, as Obama is slightly better than Hillary Clinton. (Politics-wise...as far as effectiveness, I think there is no way Hillary could have achieved the resounding victory that Obama did over the rethugs, and yes that was the main goal.)

But now that the election is over, I'm not forgetting how DLC triangulation aided and abetted the disaster the rethugs brought us.

And I'm not going to turn the other cheek with regards to Holy Joe Liarman.
~

Rose said...

I'm unhappy about the Emanuel choice, not so much because he's DLC, but more because of the leaks. As someone who was not originally a supporter of Obama, I became extremely impressed by the way he ran his campaign, without unauthorized leaks or unnecessary drama. It may be the most important reason why he won. With Rahm as Chief of Staff, those days may be over.

I'm also skeptical about his loyalty, considering his sabotage (I know it's too harsh a word) of the negotiations on Iraq funding last year. http://www.openleft.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=9768

BTW, I'm also skeptical about HRC as Secretary of State; It feels like a political choice, and as much as I'd like to see HRC play an important role in the Obama administration, I'd rather see Obama choose the person he thinks would be best.