It's been quite a week for White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. The
hard-charging Chicagoan known for his bare-knuckle political wrangling
received two very flattering profiles in the Washington Post, provoking a backlash
and questions about whether he was saving the White House or in fact undermining it
In the week since, two magazine cover stories profiling Emanuel have
come out, as have virulent accusations from a resigning Democratic congressman. Emanuel is reportedly
"irritated by" and has "expressed regret for" the coverage. But that
doesn't change the buzz. Here are the five wildly different views of
Rahm and his role in leading the White House.
- Does 'Rahmism' Work? The New York Times' Peter Baker asks,
"If picking the leading practitioner of the dark arts of the capital
was a Faustian bargain for Obama in the name of getting things done,
why haven't things got done?" Baker suggests the paucity of White House
accomplishments in the last nine months could be due in part to
Emanuel's cut-throat, middle-way strategy. He notes that Emanuel is
supposed to be all about politics, but the Democrats' loss of Ted
Kennedy's Senate seat has been disastrous. "The disaffection with
Emanuel has swelled since the Massachusetts election, and the knives
have come out."
- Smartest Man in the White House The Washington Post's Jason Horowitz says
Emanuel's only real failure is that he is second-guessed within the
White House, including in the oval office. He "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."
- Rahm Not So Influential The New Republic's Noam Scheiber is sympathetic
to Emanuel's style of politics, but sees failures. He says Emanuel has
lost "an awful lot" of key internal battles and some external ones. In
Massachusetts, "Emanuel himself deserves significant blame for failing
to produce a backup plan once Brown seemed likely to win." But given
Emanuel's insistence that the White House push through health care
before the election, which was ignored, "the episode may be the most
emphatic vindication of the Emanuel approach one could ever imagine."
- Obama's Personal Savior The Washington Post's Dana Millbank gets a bit carried away.
"Obama's first year fell apart in large part because he didn't follow
his chief of staff's advice on crucial matters. Arguably, Emanuel is
the only person keeping Obama from becoming Jimmy Carter." Where the
White House has succeeded, it is because of Emanuel. Where it has
failed, it is because Emanuel was not sufficiently heard.
'Son Of The Devil's Spawn' That's the incensed characterization by retiring Democratic Congressman Eric Massa.
"He is an individual who would sell his mother to get a vote. He would
strap his children to the front end of a steam locomotive," Massa said,
accusing Emanuel of forcing an ethical inquiry onto the Congressman
because he voted against the White House. He recalls a particularly
confrontational moment. "I am showering, naked as a jaybird, and here
comes Rahm Emanuel, not
even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my
chest, yelling at me."
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