Milbank Shows Rahm Some Love


large_barack-obama_rahm-emanuel-june6-2008_meye.jpgThis morning in the Washington Post, Dana Milbank challenges Edward Luce, Leslie Gelb, Jane Hamsher and me on our recent pieces explicating the management and policymaking mess among Barack Obama’s core team. (Here is my piece.)
Let’s set aside for another post the fact that Milbank’s column seems to channel Rahm directly. The piece conveys a detailed knowledge of what exactly Rahm advised Obama to do — and how exactly Obama allegedly rebuffed Emanuel.
So, Rahm, or Milbank on his behalf, seems to be appealing to President Obama to just listen to Rahm more and all will be well.
But then Milbank jumps on the bandwagon of those he starts his piece rebuffing and suggests that the White House dump Gibbs, Axelrod, and Jarrett.
Not even my essay went that far.
This reminds me of a vignette at the tail end of Richard Wolffe’s interesting profile of the Obama campaign titled Renegade: The Making of a President in which Emanuel tried to “export” Valerie Jarrett to the U.S. Senate to fill Obama’s seat and to pry her away from such constant, intimate proximity to the President.
Seems like via Dana Milbank, Rahm Emanuel is still trying to pry them away.
Today’s column starts:

Let us now praise Rahm Emanuel.
No, seriously.

I wondered if there was a foundation in their relationship for this kind of adoration. Well, maybe.
I found this June 2009 profile of Rahm Emanuel by Milbank. Read the whole thing, but here’s a bit slug that could explain why Emanuel would send some sizzle Milbank’s direction:

For a disciplinarian, Rahm Emanuel was remarkably loose as he sat down to breakfast at the St. Regis hotel yesterday.
On South Carolina’s adulterous governor, Mark Sanford: “There’s a guy that needed a cigarette.”
On talking with his mouth full: “If this was more of a Jewish family, I’d feel fine.”
On the woman he wants to run for Senate in Illinois: “She is the 800-pound gorilla here.”
Then there was this unusual aphorism coming from a man who worked in the West Wing when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke: “What happens in the Oval Office stays in the Oval Office.”
What made this all the more surprising was that President Obama’s chief of staff gave this performance at a table with 40 journalists, their tape recorders running, in an on-the-record forum hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
At one point during Emanuel’s free-flowing talk, he was discussing the Republicans’ woes when a White House deputy press secretary, seated at a table in the back of the room, abruptly sat up in his seat. “Am I getting that look from you that I’m being too political, Bill?” Emanuel asked. Bill Burton protested that this wasn’t the case, but Emanuel went on: “I haven’t seen you sit up like that in a long time. You were just worried about where this was going, Bill?”
With Emanuel, who floated the incautious view last year that one should “never allow a crisis to go to waste,” it wasn’t an unreasonable fear. But he returned his focus to his questioners. “I just looked up and I caught this hairy eyeball by Bill,” he said, explaining: “I’m trying to repress my political gene as much as I can.”
Impossible. Emanuel could no longer repress his political gene than his need for oxygen — and that is what makes him particularly good at his job. In his hour with the press yesterday, he made a far more cogent case for Obama’s agenda, and how the president can get it enacted, than the guy paid to do that, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. Where Gibbs seems to delight in condescension and combat, Emanuel offered a refreshing measure of candor.
On immigration legislation, he admitted that yesterday’s meeting at the White House with immigration advocates was “because the votes aren’t there” to pass it. “If the votes were there, you wouldn’t need to have the meeting, you’d go to a roll call,” he said, his legs crossed and his arm draped over the moderator’s chair.
He volunteered that Hillary and Bill Clinton made “a big mistake” 15 years ago when they refused to accept a health-care reform measure by Republican Sen. John Chafee (R.I.) that was very close to the first lady’s doomed proposal.
And he acknowledged that Obama’s dream of bipartisanship may need to be redefined downward. The absence of GOP moderates — in no small part because Emanuel targeted them when he was running the House Democrats’ campaign effort — “makes getting quote unquote bipartisanship done hard,” he said. He proposed that the health-care legislation in Congress could be bipartisan without Republican votes. “This will be bipartisan; there will be ideas from both parties, and individuals from both parties in the final product,” he said. “Whether Republicans decide to vote for things they promoted will be up to them.”
Emanuel, his hair graying and thinning as he approaches his 50th birthday, took off his jacket and tried to interject wisecracks even before the moderator, Dave Cook, finished his introduction. At the Monitor breakfasts, the guest speakers typically push their plates away to speak; Emanuel ate from his, and occasionally punctuated his remarks with soft burps.

— Steve Clemons


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