This week begins one of the biggest transitions for the Obama led White House since they assumed power 20 months ago. We see the worst kept secret in the White House confirmed as Rahm Emanuel officially resigned his position as the Chief of Staff in order to pursue his candidacy for the Chicago Mayoral race. As most of you are aware, I am no fan of Emanuel. He certainly rubbed me the wrong way with his nastiness and absolute hatred for the other party, or for that matter, anyone within his party that didn’t go along with his plans and aspirations. Add to that his now famous “Never let a crisis go to waste” statement (which I personally think was one of the most damning statements ever made by a top level official in terms of revealing to the general public the way that national politicians view their role of governing the people), and you can see why he isn’t on my list of personal favorites. Of course everyone has their own opinion of Rahm Emanuel. What I am going to cover here is why I think that Emanuel leaving the White House is good news for the Obama administration, good news for Americans in general, and then pose a question to the people of Chicago who may now be forced to deal with Emanuel in a position of ultimate power within the city.
There is little question that Rahm Emanuel is simply not a nice guy. The image of him in my head is of the man famous for an election night rant. The year was 1992, and Rahm Emanuel was the chief campaign fund-raiser for Bill Clinton. After Clinton had won, Emanuel was sitting in a restaurant with George Stephanopoulus and other aides. They discussed those who they felt had done them wrong during the course of the campaign. Revenge was the primary subject of the discussion, and a list was created of those who would feel the wrath. Emanuel suddenly shouted out the name of an enemy and stabbed the table with his steak knife, screaming “DEAD” after each name he offered. I wasn’t there that night, but it has been fairly well documented. In my mind it is like a mob boss flipping out after a rival takes out parts of his family. That is how I picture it. Emanuel screaming a name, and then “DEAD”, and then another name, “DEAD”. It is a pretty eerie picture to have of someone who ultimately ended up being the Chief of Staff for the President of the United States.
There are plenty of stories out there of Rahm Emanuel going over the edge, threatening members of the opposition, even threatening members of his own party who were not going along with the plan. Democrats were happy to have Emanuel brought in as the Chief of Staff simply because they knew his reputation for robustly entering into the fray against Republicans. If you will recall, when the appointment was made, I was skeptical. I didn’t like Emanuel, however I recall clearly telling people that Emanuel was the right choice for Chief of Staff if President Elect Obama trusted him. In the end, the President needs to trust and rely on his Chief of Staff. If he felt that Rahm was the guy he could trust, then he made the right choice. Hindsight being 20/20, I am not so sure that he was such a good choice, but I have to admit that I am glad that he was chosen.
The reason that I am glad that he was chosen is because I think that he was a liability to the President. It wasn’t that I specifically wanted the President to fail, although I clearly wanted some of his proposed legislative agenda to fail. But I believed from the beginning that there was a movement afoot in Washington to take full advantage of whatever they could while they had a wave of support and a hatred of the GOP was prevalent. Nothing made me more sure of that than Emanuel’s now famous “Never let a Crisis go to waste” comment. It was a boneheaded thing to let the public hear. It immediately made anyone on the fence about Obama sit up and begin to wonder what was going on. It caused people’s radars to go off, and exposed the administration as perhaps a bit different than the hopey changey crew that they painted themselves to be during the entire campaign.
Which is why I believe that the Obama administration is actually going to reap a benefit from having Rahm leave his position as the Chief of Staff. Emanuel was not liked by the majority of his former peers in the US Congress. It appeared that the only ones who did like him were the extreme far left folks who were as radical as he was. They liked him because he was a strong arm type guy who would work to ram their ultra-progressive agenda through. Outside of them, most of Congress appears to have either feared Emanuel or despised him. Of those whom I have talked to, there was a general feeling that he was bit like a pit bull raised to fight. He did nothing to build relationships or reach compromises with anyone who didn’t share his views. He simply believed the proper course of action was to force what Obama administration wanted down the throats of anyone opposed. It set a bad tone in a town where bad tones are always one press conference away anyway.
You often hear me say that the two parties are one team with two different colored shirts. After experiencing all that I did, I know this to be true most of the time. Two Senators can lambast each other and the opposing party’s positions in dueling press conferences and then go to dinner and laugh together at how folks are buying the show. It is like professional wrestling that way. Two guys beat the dog shit out of each other and then go back stage and share a bottle of liquor. Best of friends in real life, mortal enemies on the stage. What was different with Emanuel was that it wasn’t an act. He genuinely didn’t like the other side. And that made the charade no longer a charade, which meant that nothing was compromised, nothing was coordinated. It became evident when the President himself took every opportunity to lambast the other side. In my opinion, Obama has done so more than any previous President that I can remember. The bluntness and nastiness directed at Republicans and Fox News by this White House is, in my opinion, unprecedented. And that is the influence of Rahm Emanuel.
With Emanuel out of the picture, the White House is losing that negative influence to the political process. It is the elimination of one of the most partisan people in Washington. It is the elimination of a powerful influence that constantly pushed the administration to be nasty, to refuse compromise. It is my opinion that a decent part of what Americans consider arrogance from Obama was influenced, pushed forward, by Rahm Emanuel. He simply set a bad tone in DC. He was a primary force that made DC operate in a negative cycle instead of a positive one. Now that he won’t be there any longer, there is a chance for the White House to move forward in a more practical way, without purposefully alienating anyone who may have the slightest disagreement with the Obama agenda.
I mentioned above that I also think that this is good for the American public. I simply feel that having someone as negative and caustic as Rahm Emanuel removed from the federal government cannot hurt. If Chicago is silly enough to elect him Mayor, at least he can only screw up the lives of Chicagoans. I am happy to have him no longer influencing or shaping things at the federal level.
As for Chicago…. I have to admit that the city is baffling to me. We all know that I have a general disdain for big cities, especially those that are considered the liberal bastions, such as Los Angeles and New York. But Chicago holds a special place in my list of cities I dislike, because I simply cannot understand how it can continue to operate in the way that it does. Chicago, in my personal opinion, is the most corrupt political city in America. New York and LA may be liberal and do some things I oppose, but I don’t tend to view them as corrupt. Chicago, on the other hand, simply oozes corruption.
There is no question that Chicago WAS the most corrupt town in America in terms of politics. New York rivaled it in the past, but Chicago was king. The Chicago political machine is famous for its strong arming, election rigging, and money corrupting ways. Over the last few years, it appears to me that the Chicago political machine is still operating as powerfully as it did in the past. What other city could raise a community organizer to President? We have the Governor taking bribes for just about everything. We have continued stories of corruption and chaos in Chicago. We now have a five person race for Mayor in Chicago in which two of the candidates have faced ethics charges in the past, one of them going through it now (Jackson Jr.). The Daley’s have basically run the city for several generations, and they lived like emperors in that town. Just how powerful must that position be if Rahm Emanuel is willing to give up his seat at the right hand of the President of the United States in order to be Mayor?
So the question I have is what is wrong with the voters in Chicago? I cannot imagine that the people of Chicago are somehow simply different than other cities, that they prefer to have a corrupt political machine running their city. So how does it continue to happen over and over there? Are the citizens simply feeling powerless to stop it so they go along? Are they legitimately not aware of what their city government is? Or are they truly powerless because the machine doesn’t really allow them to eliminate the corruption? What gives, Chicago?
As for Emanuel, don’t let the early polls fool you. He is running 4th right now, but that won’t last long. He will vault to the head of the field in Chicago quickly. He knows how to play the corrupt Chicago political game better than most. And he wouldn’t have taken this step if he wasn’t confident that he can win.
But regardless of what happens in Chicago, America is better off with Rahm Emanuel out of Washington DC. You can believe that.
Sayonara Rahm….. I won’t miss you.