Monday, February 13, 2006



I've written so much about DCCC boss, Rahm Emanuel on this blog that I just don't feel like doing another story about him ever. But then up rears his head again-- and pretty much always on the wrong side of everything. What I don't want to get into this time is how Emanuel has tried to sabotage Christine Cegelis' grassroots campaign for the open seat Henry Hyde is abandoning in Illinois-- not because that story doesn't perfectly illustrate exactly the point I'm trying to make, but just because the story has been told again and again and again and again. Nor do I want to write about another nationally well-known tale of Emanuel wrong-headedness, his treachery towards Paul Hackett in Ohio last summer. (Ironically, though, Emanuel is up to his old tricks again with Hackett, spreading rumors and applying pressure to get him to withdraw from the Senate contest and-- and here's the irony-- run against Mean Jean for the House seat he would have won if Emanuel hadn't shunned him the first time out!)

I've spent quite a bit of time talking with candidates, campaign managers, DCCC staffers (scared ones) and the picture that comes up of Emanuel is not a good one. Like I said, I've written about it ad nauseum here and here and here and all over the place. Rolling Stone has a big story on him, "The Enforcer", that is pretty positive ("he may be a scumbag but he's our scumbag" kind of thing). They point out that he was Clinton's political heavy. "Intense to the point of ferocity, he was known for taking on the most daunting tasks -- the ones no one else wanted -- and pulling off the seemingly impossible, from banning assault weapons to beating back the Republican-led impeachment. [DWT to Rolling Stone: Clinton was impeached.] 'Clinton loved Rahm,' recalls one staffer, 'because he knew that if he asked Rahm to do something, he would move Heaven and Earth -- not necessarily in that order -- to get it done.'" The article doesn't mention he was also Clinton's point person on passing the basically catastrophic, Republican-oriented NAFTA legislation.

"Friends and enemies agree that the key to Emanuel's success is his legendary intensity. There's the story about the time he sent a rotting fish to a pollster who had angered him. There's the story [patently false] about how his right middle finger was blown off by a Syrian tank when he was in the Israeli army. And there's the story of how, the night after Clinton was elected, Emanuel was so angry at the president's enemies that he stood up at a celebratory dinner with colleagues from the campaign, grabbed a steak knife and began rattling off a list of betrayers, shouting 'Dead! . . . Dead! . . . Dead! and plunging the knife into the table after every name. 'When he was done, the table looked like a lunar landscape,' one campaign veteran recalls. 'It was like something out of The Godfather. But that's Rahm for you.'" Ahh... yeah-- and I have no doubt that way back when, there were some decent enough Republicans who thought the same thing about Tom DeLay. Am I equating Rahm Emanuel, a Richard Daley-oriented Democrat, with GOP crime boss Tom DeLay? Exactly.

In the past-- in fact, just yesterday at Daily Kos-- whenever I try to raise the warning flag about Emanuel I get a knee-jerk reaction from uninformed Democratic partisans who don't understand what Emanuel is all about. A typical one: "Yeah, go on, attack Rahm Emanuel. its so easy and convenient for you. Are you at the DCCC and do you know what strategizing is? Sometimes, hard choices have to be made especially with the limited financial resources the DCCC has. Hell, if a hard core progressive has only $10k available against a formidable opponent like Foley, I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but you aren't going anywhere with meager campaign funds. That's a hard fact. And also, by your logic, Democrats shouldn't accept Republicans who see the light and want to join our party? Tell me that's not what you're thinking."

ProgressivePunch rates every member of Congress based on their votes in 14 categories (and about 150 subcategories). Any score over 80% is pretty progressive-- Barbara Boxer is rated 95, Obama 93, Hillary 92, Lieberman gets a 76, Ben Nelson a 50 (same as McCain), while DeLay gets a 3, Pombo a 6, Frist a 4. And Rahm Emanuel gets a respectible 87.64. He has two weak areas though-- "Justice For All" (76) and "War & Peace" (81). Too often when there have been controversial votes about Iraq, Emanuel has been on the wrong side (the Bush-DeLay side). And when Democratic challengers want to debate the war, Emanuel goes bonkers. He seems to think that between corruption scandals and retirements he can pick up a net of 15 seats and that the Republicans will basically defeat themselves. He's not looking for a tsunami and he's not thinking about much beyond the low-hanging fruit. He's as far from Howard Dean's strategy of taking them on in every district-- and fighting them with superior ideas-- as he could be without actually being a Republican!

I'll go back to the race that engendered the comment in a second-- the contest between a progressive Democrat bristling with ideas and passion (Dave Lutrin) and an opportunistic country-club Republican with a brand, spanking new Democratic Party registration and no ideas whatsoever except how nice it would be to be a member of Congress (Timothy Mahoney) like Emanuel promised him he could be. The primary winner will challenge Republican homophobic closet case, Mark Foley in mid-Florida's pretty red 16th CD. But before I get to this race, I want to point something else out, something I've been hearing from Democrats all over the country.

Ole Rahmbo, or whatever he likes being called to make himself the big macho-man fools buy into, has been systematically scouring the country and honing in on the races of any vulnerable Republican incumbent (so far so good, right?) to utterly and viciously sabotage anyone who dares oppose Bush's war in Iraq or anyone who is a grassroots Democrat or anyone who dares to take progressive stands on issues. FL-16 is just one typical example. Elton Gallegly is a right-wing extremist-- a complete loon-- in a changing, moderate suburban Southern California district just north of Los Angeles, mostly Ventura County. In 2004 Brett Wagner, a national security expert and a progressive, built a strong grassroots base when he took on Gallegly (not unlike what Francine Busby, Christine Cegelis, Jerry McNerney and Lois Murphy did in their first-time races against Republican incumbents). None of these 2004 challengers won their races but all are poised to try to win in November. Except for one thing: Boss Tweed Emanuel. There wasn't much he could do about Murphy who came tantalizing close in a Pennsylvania swing district but the others, who are all in pretty red districts, have been pressured to step aside for a docile, vapid, homogenized, Emanuel-picked candidate. They've all told Emanuel and his surrogates to go screw themselves. The battle in Brett Wagner's case has become pretty public and pretty ugly.

Although the Emanuel attack dogs only whisper that Wagner is unelectable because he's openly gay, they attack him with a ferocity and vigor they have never turned against Gallegly, eager to install a vanilla, easy-to-manipulate puppet candidate in his place. Emanuel routinely gets uninformed Beltway Democrats to "sign on" for the shill candidates he's pushing. But no one tells Barney Frank what to do or who to support. This is what he had to say about Wagner: "Brett Wagner is a first-rate candidate. He is thoughtful, energetic and articulate and his particular expertise is the national security area, which has of course become especially prominent in our politics since the mass murders of September 11, 2001. His membership on the faculty of the Naval War College, his expertise with regard to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the high regard for which he is held for his thoughtful understanding of national security issues makes him a particularly qualified Democratic candidate. Of course he combines his national security expertise with a strong and articulate commitment to other important values. It is the unfortunate habit of many in the political community to pigeonhole openly gay candidates as people who somehow lack the overall perspective needed to effectively serve in Congress. In Brett Wagner's case, his outstanding credentials in the national security area means that any such effort to minimize him by stereotyping him will fail, and I must tell you that his presence in Congress would be enormously helpful in the causes we believe in."

Now when you go to a race where a grassroots challenger is just getting started-- without the name recognition a 2004 run gave Wagner, McNerney, Busby, Cegelis and Murphy-- Emanuel has found it much easier to push people out of races. But not always-- which brings us back to FL-16 and Dave Lutrin. As you may know, the DWT Art Department is located in FL-16 and this is a race we are watching very carefully. After examining both candidates-- Lutrin the progressive Democrat and Mahoney the opportunistic, millionaire, country-club Republican recruited by Emanuel-- we decided to support Lutrin. (You can too-- right here, right now as Kyle Minogue, Fatboy Slim and Jesus Jones would all tell you.) Lutrin was just endorsed by the Florida Democratic Black Caucus but at the same time, he got a letter from one of Emanuel's local minions in a 4th or 5th attempt to drive him out of the race. Our Art Department tells us that the latest attempt, as transparent and anti-democratic as the previous, accused Lutrin’s candidacy of “having a divisive effect on the Democratic Party in the 16th District” and will lead to “polarization and hurt feelings” if he does not reconsider his candidacy now. I suppose there might indeed be polarization within the party if the only real Democrat in the contest (Lutrin) was repeatedly asked to quit. Expect other attempts to fail. Lutrin’s response to the latest “requests” for him to vacate the race was “I am in this for the duration…Democrats need to have the opportunity to vote for a Democrat. And when I am told that I don’t have enough money to win, I remind them of how Barack Obama was out-raised 2-to-1 as the underdog in the primary and won by 55 points.” The only selling point Emanuel has for Mahoney is that he's a millionaire. But I've watched these supposedly self-funding candidates in the past and they never live up to expectations of what they're supposed to kick in money-wise.



At 8:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well stated, and Barack being a well suited analogy. Let primaries happen, let the chips fall where they's the democratic thing to do.

At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There's a fish in the court house," is a book about the Superior Court System in Ventura County CA. Written by a Public Defender Investigator from Ventura County's first Public Defender's office.

This is the good 'ol boy network within the 24th Congressional District. Search the web for a copy! I found one used and i am in the 7th Chapter.

The book names names and was the book most stolen out of the Ventura County library system, which no longer has the book available for checkout.

Just a thought,


At 2:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am from Ventura county and have never heard of the book. How old is it?

At 12:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The knife thing was a reference to the scene from ANIMAL HOUSE where BELUSHI does his little speech. Ends with NIEDERMEYER… DEAD. hahahahaha! Nobody’s saying that. Here… Give it a listen. Whole quote is written there as well. Maybe puts it into context for you.



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