Friday, November 7, 2008

O Come, O Come Emanuel

Rahm Emanuel is girded for battle, only not the kinds of battles with which his father may have been familiar some years ago. For those of you who have not heard, Rahm, the 48-year-old son of an Israeli physician who moved to New York, is leaving his position in Congress where he made a name for himself as a hardened Democratic fighter on the Hill. His entry into politics started many years ago during the late Paul Simon's 1984 race for president. He followed that up with a successful stint when Richard Daley captured the Chicago mayoralty. A bit later he started work with a then-unknown governor in Arkansas who was preparing a run for the presidency himself. Emanuel was probably Bill Clinton's biggest fundraiser and even during the most troubling periods of his presidency, Emanuel was still able to get money brought in to help the president wage his legal battles. Perhaps it's the scrappy Israeli in his heritage or it's just his nature, but he is not someone who will back down from a fight lightly. In "Godfather" fashion, he has been known during Clinton's presidency to send someone whom he felt was being disloyal a dead fish ("Luca Brazzi sleeps with the fishes.") and his selection as Barack Obama's Chief of Staff was loudly bemoaned by Republican Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio), who, given Obama's claim to be more centrist, labeled the choice as "ironic." Emanuel is not considered the cool, level-headed plotter that some may have thought Obama would have gone with as his Chief of Staff. In terms that Mario Puzo might employ, Emanuel is the "Sonny" of the House chamber, not a level-headed "Michael." Because of his temper, he probably wouldn't have made a good choice as Speaker of the House, which Emanuel was hoping to capture in another few years. But, perhaps Obama needs Emanuel as someone whose loyalty and insight he can trust. A good chief of staff must be able to tell the President no from time to time and to back up what he says. Emanuel strikes me as someone who won't pull his punches, even if it lands him in trouble with the rest of the Cabinet, the First Lady (as was the case with Hillary Clinton), or the press. Also, putting a man with close ties to Israel can't help but stifle some of the Jewish critics who have wondered aloud if Obama will be good for the Jews and the Jewish State. Interestingly enough, Emanuel is a close friend of Aaron Sorkin, the creator of TV's "The West Wing." Sorkin allegedgly based the character of presidential aide Josh Lyman in the drama on Emanuel. So truth echoes fiction and how the final script will be written only time and history will tell.

No comments: