Thursday, November 6, 2008

BARACK BAGGAGE: RAHM EMANUEL

Rep. Rahm Emanuel might not appear at first glance to be the obvious choice to serve as White House chief of staff for a president-elect who has spoken eloquently of setting aside partisan differences and bringing the country together.

Emanuel, after all, is best known as something of a Democratic political assassin. From his days as a top aide to President Bill Clinton to his recent role leading the Democrats to a House majority, Emanuel has relentlessly attacked his foes and gone ruthlessly after anyone who stood in his way

Perhaps the possibility is not as jarring as it might seem. For one thing, precisely because Obama seems likely to adopt a unifying posture as president, he may need someone practiced in the art of political hardball.

Republican strategist John Feehery-who worked for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Minority Leader Bob Michel, as well as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay-said Emanuel could help prevent House Democrats from overreaching.

"Rahm is really smart," Feehery said. "He understands that if Obama goes too far to the left, it's not going to be good for the Democrats. I think he's the kind of guy who can knock some heads and help Obama guide the Congress toward the middle. I think that will be the goal. You will need a bad cop to Obama's good cop, and Rahm will fill that role quite nicely."

Emanuel's policies, unlike his politics, have always been centrist, very much in the mold of Clinton. In addition, a different Emanuel has emerged in recent years, one who has forged friendships with Republicans and shown an ability to work with them on occasion. . .

Along the way, Emanuel earned a reputation for a colorful intensity unusual even in the hard-hitting world of politics. His profanity is legendary and seems designed in part to throw his interlocutors off-balance. As a young political operative, he once joined other youthful colleagues in mailing a dead fish to a Democratic pollster with whom he'd had a falling out. . .

After his White House stint, Emanuel returned to Chicago in 1998, making several million dollars as an investment banker. That gave him the financial freedom to mount a hard-fought race for Congress in 2002.

When Nancy Pelosi tapped Emanuel to lead the Democratic efforts to recapture control of the House in 2006, a certain mellowing and maturation became apparent. To be sure, Emanuel continued to browbeat anyone he considered an obstacle-steamrolling weaker Democratic candidates in favor of stronger ones, for example, or engaging in legendary battles with party Chairman Howard Dean, not to mention launching all-out war against GOP candidates.

But Emanuel also showed an ability to cajole, flatter and even stroke his stable of Democratic hopefuls, going so far as to send them Eli's cheesecake when they'd scored a political success. His rants became more selective, deployed as much for effect as out of true frustration. . .

Fox News - "It's just another indication that despite the attempts to imply that Obama would somehow appoint the wrong person or listen to the wrong people when it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship . . . that was never true," said Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council. Forman said Obama's selection of Emanuel helps build confidence that the United States will be vigilant in responding to any threats to Israel posed by Iran. . .

Here and around the world, the selection brought swift reaction. The Web site for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Wednesday was filled with articles on what an Obama presidency would mean for Israel. The top story, on Emanuel, noted his deep Jewish roots.

Emanuel is the son of a Jerusalem-born doctor who worked for the Israeli underground before the nation's creation following World War II. The congressman belongs to an orthodox congregation in Chicago and worked as a volunteer in Israel during the first Gulf War.

Though Obama was accused of being conciliatory toward Iran and toward Palestinians during the presidential race, an Emanuel appointment could combat those perceptions. . .

At a 2003 pro-Israel rally in Chicago, Emanuel told the marchers Israel was ready for peace but would not get there until Palestinians "turn away from the path of terror," according to the Chicago Tribune.

Wikipedia - During his original 2002 campaign, Emanuel "indicated his support of President Bush's position on Iraq, but said he believed the president needed to better articulate his position to the American people."

Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun Times - Emanuel has a rare resume: He knows the White House and congressional operations up close and understands the Hill, the White House and the press, and how they all fit together. He has another big attribute, said a source: "He knows how to kick ass and take names."

Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada - Emanuel is Obama's first high-level appointment and it's one likely to disappointment those who hoped the president-elect would break with the George W. Bush Administration's pro-Israel policies. . .

Rahm Emanuel was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1959, the son of Benjamin Emanuel, a pediatrician who helped smuggle weapons to the Irgun, the Zionist militia of former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, in the 1940s. The Irgun carried out numerous terrorist attacks on Palestinian civilians including the bombing of Jerusalem's King David Hotel in 1946.

Emanuel continued his father's tradition of active support for Israel; during the 1991 Gulf War he volunteered to help maintain Israeli army vehicles near the Lebanon border when southern Lebanon was still occupied by Israeli forces. . .

In Congress, Emanuel has been a consistent and vocal pro-Israel hardliner, sometimes more so than President Bush. In June 2003, for example, he signed a letter criticizing Bush for being insufficiently supportive of Israel. "We were deeply dismayed to hear your criticism of Israel for fighting acts of terror," Emanuel, along with 33 other Democrats wrote to Bush. The letter said that Israel's policy of assassinating Palestinian political leaders "was clearly justified as an application of Israel's right to self-defense."

In July 2006, Emanuel was one of several members who called for the cancellation of a speech to Congress by visiting Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki because al-Maliki had criticized Israel's bombing of Lebanon. Emanuel called the Lebanese and Palestinian governments "totalitarian entities with militias and terrorists acting as democracies" in a 19 July 2006 speech supporting a House resolution backing Israel's bombing of both countries that caused thousands of civilian victims.

Emanuel has sometimes posed as a defender of Palestinian lives, though never from the constant Israeli violence that is responsible for the vast majority of deaths and injuries. On 14 June 2007 he wrote to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "on behalf of students in the Gaza Strip whose future is threatened by the ongoing fighting there" which he blamed on "the violence and militancy of their elders." In fact, the fighting between members of Hamas and Fatah, which claimed dozens of lives, was the result of a failed scheme by US-backed militias to violently overthrow the elected Hamas-led national unity government. . .

Over the course of the campaign, Obama publicly distanced himself from friends and advisers suspected or accused of having "pro-Palestinian" sympathies. There are no early indications of a more balanced course.

Bits Blog - After a number of years of being Barack Obama's enforcer, and years before that working at the Clinton White House, Rahm Emanuel has been named WH Chief of staff, and we find that John Podesta has been running things for Obama for several months. . . The one thing, however, missing in all the articles on the topic is how this loading up of the usual Democrat suspects, represents 'change'. Its' a point the paper notes: "Mr. Emanuel's taste for bare-knuckle politics is a stark contrast to the next president's image as a conciliator, but an ability to bang heads can help maintain internal discipline."

"He is as smart as a fox and tough as nails, and is one of the savviest political minds that I have ever known," said Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco. "I have no doubt that he is smart enough to adjust to the culture of an Obama operation. . . "Rahm Emanuel stands for everything that Obama was saying is wrong with Washington, but he's very competent," said Mr. Edwards, the former congressman.

David Sirota, Huffington Post, September 16, 2008 - Emanuel -- one of the original architects of NAFTA -- wants congressional Democrats to pass controversial NAFTAs with Colombia, South Korea and Panama right now, so as to avoid inevitably stronger opposition from his own party in the next Congress.

To really fathom how incredible this is, understand that Emanuel -- the Democratic leader -- is effectively acting as the House Republican whip. He's saying that he wants these bills up for a vote because there are enough Republican votes right now in the House to pass it over current Democratic objections -- and there won't be enough GOP votes in the next Congress.

How many polls have to come out showing that the vast majority of Americans do not want their jobs and wages crushed by hacks like Emanuel? And how come Democrats are led by con artists who spent their White House career shilling for Wall Street, then cashed in as an investment banker, then bought a congressional race, only to go back to Washington to continue his corporate crusade over the dead body of his own caucus?

Naftali Bendavid, Chicago Tribune, November 2006 - Rahm Emanuel was seething. He was hurtling down an asphalt road in upstate New York on the 47th trip of his ferocious campaign to win back the House. A lecture, even from his friend James Carville, was the last thing he needed.

In just 12 days, Emanuel's quest would end in a historic victory--a triumph that almost no one believed possible when he accepted the challenge nearly two years ago--or in colossal failure.

And here were Carville and pollster Stan Greenberg telling him he had to make each of his handpicked candidates shift from attack mode and strike a conciliatory note in their final campaign ads.

"James. No James, YOU LISTEN," Emanuel barked into a cell phone, about to release a string of profane invectives more intense than usual. "Can you listen for one [expletive] minute? I'm working these campaigns all the time. The campaigns all have different textures."

His wiry body tensed, his voice breaking with stress. Emanuel shouted, "If you don't like what you see, I highly recommend you pick up the ... phone and do it yourself."

The moment captured Rahm in full, a portrait in power of a brutally effective taskmaster. . .

The Republicans always had killers on their side, ruthless closers like Karl Rove, Tom DeLay and Lee Atwater, the late mudslinging mastermind credited with getting the first President Bush elected. In Emanuel, Democrats had their counterpart, a tactician of a caliber the party had not seen since the young Lyndon Johnson converted the DCCC into a power base. . .

On a late-spring day in 2006, Emanuel and Charles Schumer, the New Yorker in charge of winning the Senate for the Democrats, walked into the office of party Chairman Howard Dean. Emanuel, once again, was ready for a fight.

For months, he and Schumer had been imploring the iconoclastic former presidential candidate to channel more money into congressional campaigns. Dean had been pushing a "50-state strategy" to build a Democratic operation in every part of the country.

The national party usually spent millions to help House candidates, but Dean was instead using the money to build this far-flung operation, to Emanuel's immense frustration. He felt Dean's strategy wasted money in unwinnable places. . .

Ridiculing the effort, Emanuel told Dean that he had seen no sign of it. "I know your field plan. It doesn't exist," he recalled saying. "I've gone around the country with these races. I've seen your people. There's no plan, Howard."

The tongue-lashing was another example of how Emanuel took a sledgehammer to intra-party niceties, making plenty of enemies along the way.

The gravitational center of Democratic antagonism toward Emanuel was the Congressional Black Caucus. Many of the caucus' 43 members complained that Emanuel had not hired enough African-American staffers. They also protested that when he harangued lawmakers to pay their DCCC dues, he did not recognize how hard it was for black politicians, many of whom represented poorer areas, to raise money. The protests often erupted into shouting matches. "If a person says, 'Danny Davis, where are your dues?' I may have a particular difficulty getting my dues that you don't know about or you don't relate to," Rep. Danny Davis, the West Side Democrat, said last summer. "Rahm don't take no prisoners."

Emanuel was privately contemptuous of such complaints. He saw the Black Caucus as one more party faction, like conservative Democrats, that would rather complain than work. Asked about the number of black staffers at the DCCC--two African-Americans were on his senior staff of about 10 people--he waved his hand dismissively. "You know that every [DCCC] chairman has faced the same criticism?" he said. "OK. So I don't give a [expletive]," he added, literally spitting. . .

7 Comments:

At November 6, 2008 1:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama just raised the AIPAC flag over the White House. For more years of coddling of the Middle East's #1 terrorist state, Israel. No change we can believe in here.

 
At November 6, 2008 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another Zionist in a powerful government position. Will it ever end?

 
At November 6, 2008 11:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone who thought this would change under Obama was deluding themselves.
This IS Obama. The Hope & Change thing got him elected, but he would never had been elected without the support of the power elite.
I haven't looked up the numbers, but according to Cockburn, Obama was actually more popular with Pentagon contractors (in terms of donations) than McCain.
Apparently there's talk of possibly keeping Gates and Paulson (regarding Paulson, note that Goldman Sachs was one of Obama's largest contributors), and talk of possibly appointing Lugar or Hagel at State. Hopefully, it won't go entirely this extreme, but I wouldn't be surprised.

 
At November 7, 2008 5:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some articles of interest:
http://www.truthout.org/article/special-report-democratic-house-officials-recruited-wealthy-conservatives
http://firedoglake.com/2007/09/07/rahm-emanuels-war/
http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2006/11/rahm-emanuel-may-not-have-had-much-to.html
http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2006/11/not-enough-rahm-today-were-just.html
http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2008/11/did-we-elect-rahm-emanuel-last-night-i.html

 
At November 7, 2008 10:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Emma Goldman said, "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal."

 
At November 14, 2008 12:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Emma Goldman said, "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal."'

And isn't that what Sam Smith thinks? Why should we bother voting when it DOESN'T MATTER? Both sides are corrupt, shouldn't we all give up on having a moral society and let the energy companies run the world the way they want to? If the Bushies aren't as corrupt as the Clintons, or vice versa, does that really mean anything? To be involved with government is to be corrupt. Government is a form of death. Why do we need government? It's just shit that hurts us.

 
At November 14, 2008 11:46 PM, Blogger TPR said...

I know Sam and that's not what he thinks at all - Josiah Swampoodle

 

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