As Washington emerges from the icy grip of the Snowpocalypse and slides into spring, everyone's fancy has turned to thoughts of love. The Beltway media is no different, and, as you know by now, their latest passion has been to take an obsessive look at the life and times of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel -- his noble sacrifices, his bootless labors, his fruitless attempts to moderate the Obama agenda into a bland paste that could pass through the body politic like the Blueprint Cleanse -- in order to lend support to a guy who essentially is mounting a long and preemptive campaign of blame-avoidance.
The latest journalist to get caught in this bad Rahmance is The New Republic's Noam Scheiber, who asks, "You think it's so great being Rahm Emanuel?" Well: do we? Think it's: so great? Consider the following facts, Scheiber helpfully provides:
--Emanuel lost weight and had to drink a bunch of coffee in order to sign up a bunch of Democratic representatives who now require gale-force ass kissing to support their president's agenda.
--Apparently, "laboring as chief of staff during the first year or two of a presidency can be a prolonged form of torture." You know, like the GITMO detainees endured! WHY WON'T THE ISLAND NATION OF PALAU OFFER RAHM ASYLUM?
--"A new White House tends to be heavily populated with campaign personnel, many of whom have little experience at governing, much less in the West Wing." Indeed, how could Emanuel have coped with this, having only been a White House aide to Bill Clinton?
--Rahm "has his own unique set of frustrations," among them being the "near-constant mythologizing" of his "outsized personality." How did he come to be known as a "diabolical operative who excels in the dark art of psychological warfare," when every day he totally disabuses us of this notion?
--Poor Rahm haz a sad over "activists on the left," who Scheiber says treat Emanuel as a "crypto-conservative." (Actually, those activists simply don't understand why this "diabolical operative who excels in the dark art of psychological warfare" spends all his time practicing those dark arts on them, when he could be practicing them in support of avoiding "a too-small stimulus, a too-generous bank bailout, a variety of health care compromises.")
--Tim Geithner exasperates him! (Actually, we don't blame Emanuel for this.)
--Again with this whole bit about him "brooding" over alienating Lindsay Graham! Who cares? Lindsay Graham and $4.99 will get you a Trenta from Starbucks.
Once you get past the litany of Things That Make Rahm Emanuel's Life So Hard, Scheiber takes a deep dive into Emanuel's role in the health care reform debate. To boil it down, Emanuel preferred a strategy that placed a premium on speed and momentum. Unfortunately, President Obama apparently took all that stuff he said about operating in an open fashion with all parties seriously, and so, at a critical moment, he let Max Baucus be Max Baucus, and that prolonged the reform debate to where it is today -- facing a post-Scott Brown Senate, and the obstacles that creates.
As it turns out, I'm pretty sympathetic to Emanuel on this score. The deliberations of Baucus's "Gang Of Six" and the intense attempt to court Chuck Grassley proved to be largely useless (much in the same way as an intense courtship of Lindsey Graham, frankly!).
It's still curious! For a guy who was supposedly at odds with White House staffers rooted in campaigning, Emanuel's approach was to manage health care reform as a horse-race campaign rather than a policy that needed to be well-crafted. And for a guy who was worried about how it was "just too easy for opponents to cull a few smelly details" on the health care reform policy, his approach -- selling out to the pharmaceutical industry and hospitals (deals that Rahm "trumpeted loudly," so that people noticed) -- put some foul-smelling stuff pretty front and center.
But look: let's circle back around to Scheiber's primary question: "You think it's so great being Rahm Emanuel?" In fact, I do. And the elegant proof of this contention can be found in the lede of this November 7, 2008 article in New York Times's Dealbook:
President-elect Barack Obama's choice to be his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is already widely known in the halls of Washington for serving as an adviser to President Clinton, and most recently as a congressman from Illinois. But in between those two roles, Mr. Emanuel made millions of dollars on Wall Street as an investment banker with Wasserstein Perella, as the boutique firm was known at the time.
Look. Whether or not Emanuel works in the White House or doesn't, whether he's praised or blamed for his efforts, whether he gets his way or he doesn't and whether or not Americans get expanded health care coverage or crucial financial reform, the important thing to remember is that Rahm Emanuel is going to be just fine, forever and ever. It really is vastly, almost inconceivably easy, to be Rahm Emanuel. Let's stop pretending the man is suffering.