There’s been rumbling for weeks that Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff under President Obama, was thinking of ditching the Obama administration to run for mayor of Chicago after Richard Daley announced his retirement. Tonight, two major news organizations, ABC and CNN, both independently announce that Rahm will make a formal announcement within the week that he’s stepping down to run for the mayoral office.
Both articles downplay the resignations of multiple advisors to the Obama White House. Economic advisors Christina Romer and Larry Summer and media advisor Anita Dunn were among the high-profile departures over the last year. Emanuel’s resignation, of course, would trump them all and signal a huge shift in political tactics regardless of who the President chooses as his successor.
Pete Rouse is being tossed around as a potential successor to Rahm. It’s a safe pick, especially since he served as Obama’s chief of staff as a Senator, having also worked on the staff of then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle. The Washington Post in 2007 dubbed him the Outsider’s Insider, portraying him as a crafty veteran who guided a green Obama through the rigors of the first few years of Washington in preparation for a Presidential run. Others might throw around Valerie Jarrett as a possibility, but Rouse’s previous experience seem to make him a shoo-in – and possibly more pragmatic. He advised Obama to vote against John Roberts, despite Obama recognizing his judicial talents, out of sheer political triangulation, a skill Obama may need to master should the GOP take one or both Houses of Congress.
Yet pragmatism was what brought Rahm such grief among the left, a hatred that mystifies much of the right who saw Emanuel as a fellow traveller of the hard left. Emanuel seems to be held solely responsible for the lack of a public option in the final health care reform bill – though it’s my belief that despite what any poll tells you, its inclusion would have opposition to the act over its already toxic levels into near catastrophic territory. Emanuel was seen as a hindrance to an unbridled liberal agenda that would remake America for the better, that agenda’s opponents be damned – though Rahm would probably argue he was seeking not only to advance a progressive agenda, but preserve the majority that had brought the Obama administration to power.
With horrid poll numbers across the country, that majority seems to be crumbling. Those who would chalk it up to Rahm’s hesitation at implementing a transcendently liberal Obama agenda ignore the reality that America is a center-right country, a reality that liberal Emanuel was cognizant of and tried to work around. One could say he was successful – the President got many of his bills passed, from financial regulation to the auto bailouts. One could also say that’s easy to do when your party holds comfortable majorities in Congress, and further, that such “success” is the reason many Americans have been further turned off by Washington.
In Rahm’s successor, the President has a choice to remain with a hard-nosed pragmatist (even one not so ideological) or to give a kiss to his liberal base and appoint someone much more pie-in-the-sky and ideologically pure. Rouse, the potential successor, would seem to fit the mold of the former, but whether the President would be able to stomach talk of triangulation is another story.
Cross-posted at Wellsy’s World