Obama's agenda is going down. Someone is going to have to take the fall for when health care doesn't pass and it certainly isn't going to be President Obama falling on his own sword. It looks like the man being set up for the fall is Rahm Emanuel.
A couple news articles from today hit on the machinations going on at the White House.NY Times
Human Events gives us the quick lowdown on the Rahm history and likely future.
Rahm Emanuel, famous for declaiming that a crisis should never be allowed to go to waste, is now engaged in an epic battle not only with President Obamas closest advisers but with the president himself...........
.....But Emanuel doesnt play well with others. Calling fellow White House staffers f-ing retarded in a strategy meeting months ago, he apologized for using the r word (newly banned by the political correctness police) but not for the insult.
And now, with President Obama sinking to a new low in power and prestige, Emanuel is under attack by other White House staff (probably advisors David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett along with press secretary Robert Gibbs) who are apparently leaking attacks on him.
The Times piece is much longer and has several accidental confirmations of points critics have been noting. It's always fun to read the Times when they do this. They write for their insular audience (and their circulation numbers prove that point) and in doing so, give up way too much information sometimes.
The stupid season has arrived for Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel, the unlikely tandem of inspirational leader and legislative mechanic that was supposed to enact the most expansive domestic program since the Great Society.
Remember, when Republicans suggest that Obama is almost a socialist and is attempting great changes to economy and government, well it is just made up bullshit. It is just a Republican meme being pushed forward since they are the party of no and have no ideas or solutions and just hate the president since they are racist. It isn't appropriate to suggest that his proposed and passed programs are huge, breaking the bank with record setting deficits and are "the most expansive domestic program(s) since the Great Society."
That would be made up nonsense except the Times just confirmed the agenda and goal.
Obama was enough of a student of history to avoid repeating the mistakes of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, who came to reform the capital and installed friends from home who did not truly understand it as their top White House aides. But 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 havent things got done?
Things haven't gotten done because people are opposing the attempts to get the agenda done. Sure you get to call them idiots for suggesting there is an agenda, but still, it hasn't gotten done. The Times does a nice job of absolving Obama and setting up Rahm to take the fall.
By the end of his first year, Obama expected to have revamped the nations health care system, restructured its energy industry to curb climate change, reined in Wall Street with a new regulatory structure, closed the prison at Guantánamo Bay, signed an arms-control treaty with Russia, begun rapprochement with Iran and jump-started the Middle East peace process.
Yes and anyone who declared that Obama wanted to alter our entire economy and government in doing all this is just a racist and extremist fringe member who is likely driven to violence by the mere fact that Obama was elected.
We can stop putting forward caricatures and realize the reality of it. Obama ran as a centrist, then did what most Democratic presidents have done which is gone hard left with an agenda many people suspected was there but were willing to take a chance on to support "history." It has been opposed, protested against and run against since the day he was elected and the results have been great for anyone opposing said agenda.
Instead, the presidents approval ratings have fallen by more than 20 percentage points, unemployment remains higher than even the worst initial White House forecasts and much of the presidents agenda is stalled.
All of this could be that nice caricature put forward, that people are just buying the Republican lies, or are now reverting back to racist form, or are impatient with Obama spending hundreds of billions
The reality is that as his agenda became known, people oppose it and rewarded those who oppose it.
In this season of discontent for Obama, Emanuel has emerged as the leading foil, the easy and most popular target for missiles flung at the White House from all sides. He is the bête noire of conservatives who see him as the chief architect of Obamas big-government program and of liberals who consider him an accommodationist who undermines the very same agenda. The criticism has been searing and conflicting. He didnt work enough across party lines. He tried too hard to work across party lines. He pushed for too much. He didnt push for enough. The crossfire underscores his contradictions how can Emanuel be so intensely partisan without being all that liberal and so relentlessly pragmatic without being bipartisan? And just as salient these days, how can he be so independent-minded and still remain loyal to a team operation?
This debate is going on within the Democratic party and their, up until recently, supermajority which is why nothing got done, but of course it is the fault of the Republicans.
Emanuel occupies a unique niche in Obamas White House. He makes up the rules of the game that others are supposed to follow, and he gets away with what others cannot.
I've suggested this isn't a unique niche or rule but rather is the BOOMER rule. The first rule is they make the rules. The second rule is they disregard their own rules. The third rule is see the first rule if you are confused.
Emanuel cultivates his ferocious, dead-fish-sending, profanity-spewing, Rahmbo reputation because it serves his interests as well as the presidents. At 50, he has the coiled energy of aides half his age, still as wiry thin as he was during his improbable days as a ballet dancer.
He's a bad ass ballet dancer who will have heads show up in your bed.
Descriptions of his style almost always seem to include some sort of martial reference.
Hand-to-hand combat, as Daley describes it.
A heat-seeking missile, in Axelrods words.
But remember it is the fault of the Republicans that none of their ideas and thus none of their votes have gone into these plans. Olympia Snowe is too radical and right for Rahmbo. They are just so mean and aggressive while Rahmbo is sending off fish heads and using martial arts references to move things along.
Hes a Malcolm X Democrat by any means necessary, Paul Begala, a longtime friend from the Clinton White House, says.
Again remember that -by any means necessary, it really means it is the fault of the Republicans when things don't get passed. It also means that those who will achieve goals by any means necessary are the nice polite bipartisan people and those who don't act that way are the evil partisan hacks.
Soon after reaching Congress, he managed to power his way into the leadership through force of personality, past scores of members with more seniority. No one else wanted it as bad or was willing to do as much. He mastered the Congressional districts of virtually every member and took over the partys campaign committee for the 2006 elections, recruiting moderate and even conservative candidates for districts the Democrats had not won in years. Along the way, he stayed in touch, calling me unsolicited from time to time to trade gossip or point out something about George W. Bushs White House that he thought deserved more scrutiny from the news media. He managed to get around so much that an editor at a major newspaper at the time recalled finding Emanuels name on the expense account of virtually every reporter covering Washington for that paper.
By the time Obama was headed for victory in 2008, Emanuels name was coming up as an obvious choice to run the new White House. But he had other ideas. Just a few weeks before the election, we met for one of those expense-account dinners, and he flatly rejected any suggestion that he might become chief of staff.
Please forget that the media buys people dinner to get them to talk and that everyone has bought Rahm dinner. Please forget he helped grow and craft the majority that Democrats have had since 2006 because then you might wonder why Obama has so much to fix if Democrats were already in power and in office (including Obama himself) since 2006.
As different as the two men are, there is something in the erudite and zenlike Obama that seems to enjoy Emanuels coarser side. At an epilepsy fund-raiser in Chicago in 2005, Obama, then a senator, roasted Emanuel, then a congressman, in a moment captured on video. Obama joked that Emanuel once adapted Machiavellis Prince for dance, naturally with a lot of kicks below the waist. He recalled the teenage accident with a fast-food meat slicer that cost Emanuel part of his middle finger, joking that it rendered him practically mute. Emanuel doubled over laughing. Obama, clearly enjoying the audience reaction, added: Has he ever flashed that little stubby thing at you? Its appalling! He then noted that Emanuels brother Ari is the inspiration for the cocky Hollywood agent on HBOs Entourage and joked that Rahm was more like Tony Soprano. Rahm is a little intense, hes strong, hes aggressive, hes emotional, hes moody, the future president said. Thank God he is one of a kind.
He's kind of like a really nice Tony Soprano who flips everyone off but it is the Republicans who are the coarse, mean and stupid people. Democrats can send fish heads, cut off fingers, note that it is completely appropriate to deal with issues by kicking people in the nuts, call people fucking retarded oh but Sarah Palin is stupid because she wrote on her hand.
At least she never cut part of it off...
With Obama determined to pursue an expansive vision of his program, Emanuel devised a strategy predicated on avoiding what he saw as the mistakes of the Clinton effort 16 years earlier. Rather than present fully drafted bills to Congress, Obama let lawmakers take the lead in shaping legislation. Rather than fight the well-heeled health care industry, Emanuel brought lobbyists for hospitals and drug makers to the table and cut deals in the case of the pharmaceutical industry, its contribution to the cost savings in the health care legislation would be capped at $80 billion, in effect ruling out the importation of cheaper drugs. And rather than sequencing initiatives as Clinton did tackling one big proposal at a time Obama moved forward across the board.
The bills were written by industry officials and rather than tackle the problems one at a time, they bit off everything at once. By the way if you think they tackled every thing at once, then you are a racist extremist who is dangerous. Obama is changing nothing but that doesn't mean he isn't trying to change everything.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the Republican who is probably friendliest with Emanuel in the upper chamber, says the seeds of the current difficulties were planted during the early days of the administration, when the president pushed through the stimulus without significant Republican support. Graham recalls how Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, signed onto a $421 billion version. Had Obama and Emanuel split the difference with that plan, Graham argued, they could have had a package with Republican support. You could have had a bipartisan bill, and our fingerprints would have been all over it, Graham told me. Instead, I think they were playing for a home run. They were going to jam through the biggest stimulus package ever and just pick up a couple Republicans.
This is of course a lie. There are no Republican alternatives. No Republican ever wanted to vote with or assist the president. They are the party of no and by no we mean no alternative plans either. Here is the NY Times noting that if the administration had met Republicans half way (you know been bipartisan) then Republicans would have signed on in droves.
Emanuel knew that the longer a big, complicated initiative like health care lingers in Congress, the more political freight it takes on, but he and Obama were also determined to get Republican votes if possible to give the effort more legitimacy, and that took patient negotiating. Axelrod told me he went into the Oval Office by himself one day in June and warned the president that the prolonged focus on health care was costing him politically. Obama said he understood, but recounted meeting a woman in Green Bay with cancer who was in debt from medical bills. He refused to scale back. He felt it would be a dereliction of duty, Axelrod said.
The theme repeats, you can have a good program but not utopia and the reply remains, we want utopia.
Liberal activists told The Wall Street Journal that Emanuel had berated them at a private strategy meeting by calling their tactics retarded (along with another word), touching off a firestorm that led him to apologize to the head of the Special Olympics. Lost amid the focus on the so-called R-word was the context of the discussion. Emanuel was scolding the activists for running television advertisements against moderate Democrats who were not supporting the public option, neatly encapsulating the central tension between their philosophies of governing. The activists were willing to go to war even with Democrats for a policy idea they deeply cared about, while Emanuel saw that as ridiculously counterproductive.
Don't forget though... the problem isn't the left warring with its own party, it is the fault of Republicans that Obama cannot and could not exercise his supermajority to pass bills.
The ad featured a voter from Emanuels old Congressional district describing troubles with a health insurer. A lot of us back home hope Rahm Emanuel is fighting for people like us as White House chief of staff, the man said into the camera. But if he sides with the insurance companies and undermines the public option, well, he wont have many fans in Chicago.
Don't worry, Rahm let them in to write the bill as noted above so that things could move fast and everything could be taken over quickly and at once. Industry got their claws in it and thus Republicans can be yelled at for not supporting crony capitalism.
Adam Green, a founder of Progressive Change, told me that Emanuels reputation for being strong was overblown and that the chief of staff actually had a loser mentality because he refused to fight more vigorously even for progressive ideas that had popular support. Rahm Emanuel is very, very risk-averse and afraid of a fight, Green says. We see him, and many people see him, as a destructive influence inside the White House, urging President Obama to cave instead of fighting for real change. The activists are expressing frustrations that are also felt by Congressional Democrats, even if they will not say so out loud. A Democratic congressman, who refused to be identified for fear of retribution, said Emanuel didnt pressure recalcitrant lawmakers enough. We need a little less ballerina and a little more L.B.J., he told me. For all the reputation of being able to bust knee caps, we havent seen nos turned to yeses.
He is a bad ass... who isn't. He is a man who can whip up votes, except he can't.
Don't forget of course all of this is the fault of the Republicans.
Jane Hamsher, the founder of the liberal Web site Firedoglake and one of Emanuels strongest critics, says the deal with the pharmaceutical industry was the original sin of the health care drive. Emanuel wanted to avoid the industry opposition that helped kill Clintons health care plan, the so-called Harry and Louise ads that undermined public confidence, and to do that he brought industry to the table. But in winning the support of Big Pharma, as Hamsher sees it, he gave away the chance to lower health care costs through imported drugs.
By original sin they mean it is the fault of Republicans of course.
AS FRENETIC AS Emanuel is, the pace and the struggle are wearing on him in a way that friends do not recall seeing before. His nature is to be involved in everything Rahm can do everybodys job and some days does, says another White House official. While Obama has made a point of organizing his own schedule to be family-friendly, Emanuel is often at the office when the president arrives and still there when he leaves. A friend recalled a dinner party just before Christmas when Emanuel seemed on the verge of exhaustion. He was just lying on the sofa on a Saturday night, saying, Im so tired, Im so tired, the friend told me. The setbacks and the mounting attacks have only worsened since then. I can see it in his eyes, says Shuler, who runs into him at the House gym, where Emanuel still works out as early as 5:30 most mornings. Its taking a toll on him.
This is why the bus is going to run him down. He's so tired of doing everyone's job and works harder than the president.
BTW NY Times, when anyone in the Bush administration was suspected to be working harder than the president or be better than the president at doing particular jobs, the phrase you used back then was being Bush's brain.
Emanual is being Obama's brain and working harder than him. Which is why he will go when the votes don't show up.
Rahm thinks bipartisanship is a way to get what you want to fake bipartisanship to get what you want, a senior administration official told me. He understands thats a better way to get things done than to be nakedly partisan.
Rahmbo understands faking bipartisanship to get things done. Obama understands it to since it is what he faked to get elected. The NY Times knows that Democrats are the best at faking it but nothing is wrong about that because the intentions are always noble thus so are the lies.
So that leaves Obama and Emanuel together in Washington, for as long as the president wants him there. If they manage to pull off health care despite the odds, Emanuel will be hailed as a savior. If not, well, he does not even allow for that possibility.
As Axelrod pointed out, We dont know how the story ends.
I know how the story ends and it involves a BUS.