Obama, Emanuel, and Foreign Policy

(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Rahm Emanual has accepted Barack Obama’s invitation to join his administration as White House Chief of Staff, a position that has been described in the past by many as “The Second-Most Powerful Man in Washington”, or The Gatekeeper who controls access to and the flow of information to the president.

Emanual voted for and has been extremely active in the past with Nancy Pelosi in Congressional arm twisting getting Democrats onside to support the invasion and continued occupation of Iraq, and has acquired the nicknames The Enforcer and “Rahmbo” in Congress.

In a profile of Emanual a few days ago, The Telegraph noted that:

Mr Emanuel, who received training in ballet as a boy, has shown no lightness of step in his political career: would-be enemies are advised to heed the story of a pollster who wronged him and promptly received a large, decomposing fish in the post.

Reflecting on his own foul-mouthed, attack-dog style, Mr Emanuel has said: “I wake up some mornings hating me too.”

Ben Joravsky of The American Prospect asks: Does Rahm Emanuel’s Pick Mean the Chicago Machine Is Coming to Washington?

So why is Obama hiring Emanuel as chief of staff? Probably for the same reason [Chicago’s mayor Richard M.] Daley hired him way back in 1989. He’s ruthless, cunning, and absolutely unafraid to be a jerk. In fact, I think Emanuel enjoys being a jerk. Moreover, by being a jerk, I predict Emanuel will do a great service for Obama. By the time Emanuel is finished irritating, humiliating, and infuriating folks in Washington, Obama will look like an angel. People will probably like him even more just because he’s not Emanuel.

What will his appointment as Chief of Staff mean for Obama’s foreign policies, particularly in the Middle East? Should Rahm Emanual be the prime target for progressive pressuring and advocacy from left wing bloggers, rather than Obama directly?

Real News Ceo Paul Jay talks with Consortium News founder Bob Parry about Obama’s “partnering” with Emanual:

November 9, 2008 – 8 min 52 sec

Barack Obama’s position on the Mideast conflict will be a strong indicator of his foreign policy agenda. After his speech at the AIPAC conference, Mr Obama left many doubts about the prospect for real change in US policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Real News Network Senior Editor Paul Jay talks with Robert Parry about the appointment of Rahm Emanuel, and whether this selection is symptomatic of things to come.

Andrew Sullivan Sunday morning described Emanual and his appointment this way:

If you were expecting Kumbaya from Obama, do try to remember where he learnt politics. It’s Chicago, where Emanuel also practised the dark arts of twisting arms, yelling in people’s faces and counting votes. As one wag put it, Emanuel as Obama’s chief of staff is “Change you can f****** believe in”.

Rahm comes from a remarkable family. One brother, Ari, is the Hollywood agent for Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Wahlberg and Larry David. If you’ve watched the television series Entourage, he’s the model for the character of Ari Gold, played by Jeremy Piven. His other brother, Zeke, is a Harvard bioethicist (and an old classmate of mine) who also manages to make the nuances of healthcare reform sound like a fax machine transmitting. None of them, it is fair to say, is known for pouring oil on troubled waters.

Rahm Emanuel himself explodes amusingly at regular intervals and uses language that might have made Richard Nixon blush. But as his friend Todd Purdum, the Vanity Fair journalist, has noted, he also lives by the Franklin D Roosevelt truism: “Keep all the balls in the air without losing your own.”

He gets things done. As the fourth highest ranking member of the Democratic leadership in the House, he has a very good idea of where the votes are, who the problem congressmen will be and how to corral, bully and pinion the wayward to get his way.

As Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times reported more than a decade ago: “Emanuel grabbed his steak knife and, as those who were there remember it, shouted out the name of another enemy, lifted the knife, then brought it down with full force into the table. ‘Dead!’ he screamed. The group immediately joined in the cathartic release: ‘Nat Landow! Dead! Cliff Jackson! Dead! Bill Schaefer! Dead!'”

Quite how his appointment will go down in the Middle East is an interesting question. The Emanuel family hails from Israel. They were originally the Auerbachs, but after their uncle Emanuel was killed in a clash with Arabs in Jerusalem in 1933, the family adopted his first name as their last. Emanuel, in other words, has serious Jewish and Israeli cred. But that doesn’t mean he’s a Likudnik.

In other words: he’s a sign of Obama’s seriousness about governing. He’s no suck-up like Andy Card, George Bush’s former chief of staff; and he’s no patsy. People will be scared of him – which can be helpful when you’re as congenial, if aloof, a man as Obama.


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    • Edger on November 9, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    in the White House, especially where Foreign Policy is concerned?

  1. …Emanuel’s father was not merely an Israeli, but a member of the Irgun.

    That being said, Obama was always going to be devoted to the desires of Israel, for reasons having nothing to do with Emanuel.

    • Edger on November 11, 2008 at 3:45 pm
  2. Perhaps “change we f*cking need” better describes the situation we are in, and if Rahm is a good Lieutenant then change is what we’ll get. For the last 8 years we cringed as Dems continually folded tent in the face of BushCo, now it is time for Obama to run the show and for the rethugs (and the media) to fold tent. Serious shit is going down and Obama is going to have to be able to get things done for this country. He won’t have time for the minutia of hassling with Congress, that’s Rahm’s job now.

    Me- I like it!  🙂

  3. IMHO, there are many reasons that Obama picked Emanuel.  I think one major reason is that Obama realizes that the Republicans would begin their bulldozer style push-back against him the minute he won the election.  It did start with the dispatching of multiple GOP’ers to the media outlets repeating their talking point that “Obama must move to the center; the US is a center-right nation”, etc, etc.  

    First of all, I think Obama appointed Emanuel as a message to the DC types in both parties that they weren’t going to be able to bully and intimidate the naive rookie  in the WH.

    Secondly, Emanuel is a fellow Chicagoan, as is much of Obama’s inner circle that is going to DC with him, and there’s a certain personal comfort level with having a few people that you know and are comfortable with when you are facing such monumental challenges in new surroundings.

    Thirdly, there’s the issue of campaign promises, especially promises to certain constituencies.  Sarah Silverman’s call for the Great Schlep where she encouraged grandkids to go to FL to convince their grandparents to vote for Obama was funny, but had its roots in a serious issue:  Sadly, like many of the fundies, many of those grandparents were hesitant to vote for a man with a middle name of Hussein.  They were convinced in enough numbers to vote for him.  For them, Emanuel’s appointment can be viewed as a symbolic reassurance to them–and maybe even a subtle message to the righwingnut hysterics that Obama isn’t a manchurian candidate undercover al queda operative.  

    Fourth, I think, given Obama’s vote against the AUMF to invade Iraq, despite any symbolic reassurances to constituents, he’s not about to run amok in the Middle East stirring up the flames of war.  But, again, symbolically as the new guy on the block he has to show that he’s negotiating from a position of strength.  Unfortunately, though we know that bush deliberately hyped and aggravated the “war on terra”, there are still people who want their 15 minutes of fame and want to continue to keep the world in turmoil: Euro 2008–Al-queda threatens terrorist attack and   Attack Agains US Embassy in Yemen Blamed on Al-Qaeda

    Though it’s easy for us to dismiss and shrug off these threats as just another round of hyperbole–the new President-Elect can’t afford complacency–just because the consequences for ignoring a nugget of truth in a mountain of rhetoric could be horrific.  In 1998, a friend brought this article in to work for me to read:   This Man Wants You Dead:

    “You’ve probably never heard of Osama Bin Ladin,

    but you should know who he is. Because …This Man Wants You Dead…U.S. officials took the death threat seriously, sources tell Reader’s Digest,because of the reputation of the main signatory: Osama Bin Ladin.”  

    Unfortunately, they didn’t take it quite seriously enough; the new POTUS in 2000 dismissed the threats, and the rest is history.  

    IMHO, Obama’s appointment of Emanuel is a not so subtle symbolic message to those geo-political players that might have been thinking that the nice, inexperienced, Obama would be easy to manipulate–to stop and reconsider that he might be someone that will be negotiating from a position of strength rather than from a weak vulnerability.  

    I know this is a long post, and I don’t want to give the wrong impression–I’m not an Emanuel fan.  I don’t like bullies, which is one reason I have such a visceral loathing for the Cheneys, Roves, Delays, etc of the world.  Yet, “nice guys” like Carter unfortunately get tackled by the bullies and their agenda gets derailed.  IMHO, Obama has Emanuel running interference for him so that he can get things done.  At least, I hope that’s what this is all about.  Guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

  4. More war, more killing, is not going to set the stage for mutual understanding in the region.  The best role for the U.S. to play in support of its BFF Israel is to encourage Israel and the surrounding states to talk and keep talking until there is consensus.

    Put aside war, and work on annihilating the rest of Bush’s works.


    • Edger on November 13, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    Reuters and the Chicago Sun Times both picked up and republished this post, from OOIBC.

    Maybe that makes me a real blogger now?

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