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Posted by on Nov 7, 2008 in Politics | 10 comments

Rahmbo: Bringing a Gun to a Knife Fight (continued)

RahmboPistol.jpgAs a follow-up to my previous post on Obama appointees I would invite you to take a critical look at this editorial from Mark Karlin. The very progressive (or liberal, as you like) editor of BuzzFlash describes his long, storied and occasionally dysfunctional relationship with Rahm Emanuel, providing us with an excellent insider perspective on what the new Chief of Staff will bring to Team Obama.

Karlin was no fan of the pick either, but as it turns out his reasons were pretty much the opposite of my own concerns. One of Mark’s greatest fears is that Rahm will be too centrist, in the mold of the old DLC and Bill Clinton’s centrist maneuvering. Make no mistake, Karlin judges Rahmbo (who once mailed a dead fish to a political opponent) to be highly partisan to the Democratic cause, but not far enough to the left. Personally, I would hope that the Chief of Staff would be flying the moderate flag for Obama, but the author sees this as a minus.

The one bright spot he sees regarding Emanuel, though, is what I personally find the most disturbing. The phrase “pit-bull” may not be leaving the next phase of American politics any time soon.

Emanuel may very well prove an effective choice in dealing with a Congress that is too often tied up in knots by the Republicans. Remember that Emanuel will be carrying out Obama’s policies, and Rahm won’t be bringing a steak knife to the fights ahead; he’ll be shooting a bazooka.

That may be unpalatable to a lot of progressives, but the last person you want dealing with the remainders of the rabid right wing is a Quaker (although, yes, we are great admirers of the Quaker outlook). You need some muscle to shake up Capitol Hill, someone to blow a few knee caps off.

Rahm Emanuel can do that, with glee and a glint in his eye.

For Obama to live up to his post-partisan campaign rhetoric, this seems exactly the wrong type of heavy handed approach when working with Republicans in their new minority role. Let’s hope that Karlin doesn’t prove prescient and that Obama can keep the bazookas locked up in the armory while Rahmbo is in the house.

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  • StockBoySF

    One of my concerns all along has been that many members of congress will expect Obama to push through a liberal agenda (just like the Republicans pushed through their conservative agenda) while I think Obama will be more centrist. I view Rahm as someone who will keep Dems in line more than he going after Republicans.

  • Ricorun

    Karlin ended his piece saying this: Yes, you can look at Emanuel’s appointment as a setback for progressive ideals, or you can look at it as an indication that Obama is prepared to do battle. Personally, I’m hoping it’s the latter.

    Personally, I’m with SBSF — I’m hoping it’s both.

  • I never took “post-partisan” to mean that he will be holding weekly slumber parties in the Rotunda. I take it to mean that he wants to support ideas over ideology. For example, if a Republican has a good idea that would benefit the people, don’t block it just to score partisan points. Likewise, if he’s got policy that may be unpopular, avoid diluting its effectiveness for political reasons.

  • I’m not disagreeing with any of you on Obama’s stated intentions or which direction he wants to move. I’m just saying that Rahm’s style will likely be too aggressive to really build bridges when they *do* find Republicans with good ideas, or when they want to avoid “diluting” legislation, letting down the opposition gently and possibly offering something else as an olive branch.

  • djshay

    From what I’ve read, he’s already built bridges with Republicans in the past and current administrations, hence the Lindsay Graham statement. It’s also been written that he has good relationships currently with several members of the Republican party. Sure, people like Boehner who are fast becoming the marginalized group of the Republican party, will butt heads with Rahm, but I don’t foresee a battle like you describe. And this?

    “letting down the opposition gently and possibly offering something else as an olive branch.”

    When were Dems ever afforded that respect by a republican?

  • DLS

    The Left has been far more rabid than the Right. Let’s be honest!

    What the selection of this guy, nastier than any caricature of Tom “The Hammer” Delay, does, among other things is to belie the sweet lamb-y image of Obama. Both this guy and Podesta put the lie to what some of us always knew was a lie, about “bipartisanship” (we’ve known it means Do It Our Democratic Way, Or Else).

    As someone on a local Detroit program noted correctly, even before this election, Pelosi and Reid were well known for hubris and overreach, and just imagine what they’ll try now. It also makes me more intrigued (more than concerned at this time) than ever who the Cabinet selections will be.

    I’m also concerned that, especially following the increased handout seeking by Detroit and the release of the latest worse numbers by Ford and now by GM (worse than originally predicted), that, as was also discussed on the air this morning, there will be lunacy by liberals in Washington to all but nationalize (federalize) the Detroit automakers (which, despite the lies and utter conceit here in Michigan, does _not_ constitute “_the_ auto industry in this country” — and not only will management not be told to leave in exchange for handouts, but that the companies could become like British Leyland in the 1970s.

    (Detroit has not been “the auto industry” in this country and has not been the center of auto culture in the USA for decades. Only hordes of clueless morons in a few places in this nation have failed to grasp this fact by now.)

    And it’s distressing (to the intelligent, at least) that Dick Gephardt may become the next Secretary of Labor. I hope the Obama Cabinet doesn’t end up being filled by activists the way the first Clinton Cabinet was. It’s the very last thing Americans need or want.

    But will it be that surprising? No. After all, now that the media can stop campaigning for Obama because Obama has won, Tom Brokaw can admit we know little about Obama even now, and Evan Thomas can admit there’s a creepy personality cult and image manipulation at work, in place of knowledge. But now that Obama’s our next President, we’ll see what he’s really like, and what he really wants. This chief of staff is Exhibit A.

  • DLS

    Bill Clinton and the DLC engaged in their fake-centrist “Third Way” repackaging of liberalism in the 1990s because of the public’s correct response in 1994 to the initial lunge by the Clinton administration* to the left in the old dinosaur-and-Sixties-radical sense. Only a tiny radicalism-leaning fraction of the public (Green Party and “liberal Democrat” material) wants this. The public loathed it (and the arrogance and conceit with which it was done). Hence, 1994. (Note who didn’t understand it.)

    What you may see more with Obama than in the 1990s is a true attempt to create a new, modern activist liberalism, addressing issues in better ways than before that matter most to liberals and even to others (such as health care). It’s not a new-generation thing (Obama is a Baby Boomer, not a post-Boomer, as so many incorrectly state), but it is a possibly new (or more precisely, a more contemporary) kind of liberalism and role for Washington (greater interventionism, which is to be regretted or worse, but consistent with the “progress” of the modern welfare state and replacement of constitutional federalism with a unitary state and truly national government).

    Related to Obama is a Wall Street Journal article about some whom he may rely on and even bring into his administration, other rising black stars in this nation. Note that there is resentment here among those of the old “Urban League” set, and even some intra-black class envy.

    Here. (It’s about time these people, in a world that has evolved from a truly separate world in the age of discrimination, become more visible, including as Cabinet officials.)

    More, related:

    * This included activists (and cronies) in Cabinet positions.

    PAY ATTENTION to who gets into Obama’s Cabinet!

  • DLS

    “I view Rahm as someone who will keep Dems in line more than he going after Republicans.”

    Not just that, but likely reminding them that Obama is not their rubber stamp. A lot of people in Congress (where’s the age “concern” and jokes that we all heard time after time about McCain when it comes to the rest of Congress, with average age of returning members probably in the 70s?) are “lifers” or “fixtures” who outlast numerous successive people in the White House, and may view themselves as the keystone and most important people in Washington, and for the new, younger short-time-in-Washington President to be suitably deferential, malleable, even a rubber stamp for them (especially if they become extra conceited after this last election).

    This guy may be for Obama’s defense _against_ Democrats more than Republicans, at times. (Beginning with Cabinet appointments, one may already guess.)

  • StockBoySF

    First, sorry for my poor grammar in my first comment- I dashed it off quickly without even a cursory proof reading.

    Second, I agree with janinedm, I think Obama will choose good ideas over idealogy. Which brings me back to my original comment that IMO Obama will use Rahm to keep Dems (who expect ideology) in line more than Republicans.

    I agree with DLS, we do need to pay attention to Obama’s cabinet picks. Though I’m not sure Obama will choose people who agree with him all the time. I think Obama wants people who are willing to push back, but ultimately understand that Obama will be making the decisions. So I think if Obama does choose someone that’s unexpected we should be careful about reading too much into that selection (or any selection, for that matter). But having said that (and this may be a little contradictory) I do think it’s fair to use his picks as a guideline. But the final verdict should be in a year or so to see how Obama actually uses his cabinet.

    Last, I (like DLS) never thought Obama was “lamb-y”. What’s the point of having a leader who will roll over and play dead in the face of the slightest opposition? Obama, we’ve seen, has gotten to where he as because he was willing to fight. And I think he grew as a person and as a leader as a result of the campaign. He knows he will need good people on his side to accomplish anything.

  • PeopleWatching

    Thought-provoking post and blog. Relevant to your comments is the fact that many experts have argued these days that there are five, not four generations in the U.S., including Obama’s generation: Generation Jones…the heretofore lost generation between the Boomers and Generation X, now 42-54 years old.

    I’ve noticed quite a bit of buzz about GenJones in the context of this election; I saw several discussions on national TV about Obama being a Joneser, as well as about GenJones voters being a key swing vote.

    You may find this link interesting, my friends and I have been linking people to this page because we think it matters: it has a bunch of print excerpts and videos of big time publications (e.g. The New York Times, Newsweek, etc.) and pundits (e.g. David Brooks, Clarence Page, etc.) all talking about Obama’s identity as part of Generation Jones:

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