Rahm Emanuel Reaches Out To Republicans-- And THAT Is Supposed To Be News?
About a month or so ago an old friend, know of the antipathy and disdain with which I hold Rahm Emanuel, asked me if I would have voted for Obama even if I knew he was going to appoint Emanuel his chief of staff. Before I blurted out, "No!," I said, "Well there's nothing that would have ever gotten me to have voted for John McCain. Ask me in a year and hindsight we allow me to give you a better answer."
Mike Leibovich pridefully referred to his co-religionist-- a man I've often called the Democratic Party's doppelganger for Tom DeLay and with whom I nearly had a first fight last April in a Washington bar-- "arguably the second most powerful man in the country and, just a few days into his tenure, already one of the highest-profile chiefs of staff in recent memory."
Leibovich professes shock and awe that Emanuel "has been an ardent ambassador to Republicans, including Mr. Obama’s defeated rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona." Why? Yes, Emanuel has long been a "fierce partisan," as is always pointed out, but not especially on behalf of Democratic Party values or principles. Emanuel's always been a vicious little gut fighter who likes to win-- regardless of what the game is or how the teams are divided. As for reaching out to Republicans... Emanuel was wrongly credited with the Democratic midterm landslide of 2006, when he was chair of the DCCC. By using DCCC financial clout as a club he was able to "persuade" countless grassroots, anti-war progressives to either drop out of contested primaries or to "moderate" their views, especially the anti-Iraq war views. (Emanuel is and has always been a die-hard Iraq War supporter and, basically, and American Likudnik.) I may blame him for the defeats of progressive candidates like Lois Murphy, Christine Cegelis, Dave Lutrin, Steve Porter, Charlie Brown, Larry Kissell, Diane Benson, Angie Paccione, Ellen Simon but there are two candidates even I give him total credit for: Tim Mahoney and Heath Shuler. Both are Republicans.
Heath Shuler was a Tennessee celebrity, a mediocre quarterback whose only recorded political contribution before he recently decided he was a Democrat-- and a candidate-- was $1,000 for Republican Lamar Alexander. Shuler's family gave generously to familiar names-- almost exclusively Republican names-- like George Bush, Zach Wamp, Bob Corker, and John Duncan. The GOP was trying to entice him to run for Congress in Tennessee. Emanuel swooped in and persuaded him he would have a far better chance to win in North Carolina against corrupt and damaged Charlie Taylor-- as a Democrat, a pro-war, pro-business, anti-choice, xenophobic, reactionary... Democrat. Shuler did win and has racked up a voting record in Congress that Emanuel is probably very proud of: on substantive matters he's been the 4th most frequent aisle crosser in the Democratic caucus, only marginally less likely to support the GOP agenda than fellow Dixiecrat Travis Childers (MS) and a pair of Indiana reactionaries, Joe Donnelly and Brad Ellsworth, also Emanuel recruits.
Mahoney is an even clearer case of reaching out to Republicans. Mahoney was a lifelong Republican. But he was a rich one and Emanuel knew a little secret about a certain closeted GOP incumbent in Florida. It was hardly news that Mark Foley was gay and alcoholic. What Emanuel did know was that Foley was about to star in his own TV scandal: Republican hypocrite resigns after molesting young male pages. Emanuel told Mahoney that if he switched his party registration to Democrat, he would clear the primary field for him and guarantee him a seat in Congress. And he did and Mahoney promptly joined the Blue Dogs-- as Shuler did-- and started voting like the Republican he still was.
Mr. Leibovich may not know that. The Times is in financial trouble and they don't hire qualified reporters any longer; too expensive. It doesn't cost nearly as much to hire puff piece writers. And if there is one thing Rahm Emanuel knows how to do well, it is to work with puff piece writers. That, after all, is how he got where he is. Some of the puffery sounds exactly like the kind of stuff Rahm and his staff have written for "reporters" in the past:
He is not accustomed to fading discreetly into the background. As a staff member in the Clinton White House, a three-term House member from Chicago and the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he was viewed by many as a consummate purveyor of a crass, kneecapping brand of politics.
This also sounds like it was more likely to have come from Emanuel's office than from... say, Joe Biden's:
Emanuel initially resisted taking the job. He came around after Mr. Obama insisted, saying these were momentous times and that the awesome tasks he faced required Mr. Emanuel’s help. The president-elect also assured Mr. Emanuel that the position would be the functional equivalent of “a No. 2” or “right-hand man,” according to a person familiar with their exchanges.
When Leibovich quotes Emanuel saying that Republicans are “bad people who deserve a two-by-four upside their heads,” he doesn't seem to realize that the word "Republicans" would just as easily be "progressives," "grassroots upstarts," or, better yet, "anyone not on my team."