Rahm Emanuel Named or Not Named Obama Chief of Staff!?
The first major personnel announcement of the new Obama Administration is out, and the word is that Congressman Rahm Emanuel has been offered the post of Obama’s chief of staff. The announcement didn’t exactly go off smoothly, as this NBC report shows:
From NBC’s Andrea Mitchell A senior Obama advisor confirms to NBC News that Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel has accepted the job of Chief of Staff for the Obama White House.
UPDATE: In an email to NBC News, Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg denies the reporting that Emanuel has accepted the chief of staff job.
If you’re reading tea leaves for what kind of Administration Obama will run, Emanuel does not exactly embody “new politics” and a “post-partisan” future. He’s a Chicago Democrat who worked as a “senior adviser and chief fundraiser” (his words) for Mayor Daley and later worked in the Clinton White House, and he’s known as a hardball-playing scorched-earth arch-partisan in the Tom DeLay mold. He’s been widely seen as a possible future successor to Nancy Pelosi.
Will Emanuel take the job? If his spokesperson is publicly denying that he’s taken it, that’s basically a public slapdown to Obama’s people for jumping the gun in leaking his name, and it’s certainly a sign of initial dysfunction in the naming of what is probably the single most important staff position for a new president who will be facing a sharp learning curve as a new executive.
He is smart and tough. But he has been, in both positions [as Clinton staffer and House member], a vicious graceless partisan: narrow, hectic, unremittingly aggressive, vulgar, and impatient. Those who have worked for and with him come away impressed but not inspired, and generally not loyal.
The White House chief of staff is not a chief strategist or a chief advocate. He is a manager of people and of process. Above all else, he sets the tone internally, and shapes the president’s decision process and the feel of the upper tiers of the administration. Obama is especially in need of someone who will lead him to decisions, because he appears to be intensely averse to making difficult choices—which is the essence of what the president does. His inclination is to step back and conceptualize the choice out of existence, looking reasonable but doing nothing. To overcome this, he will need a chief of staff with a sense of the gravity of the choices the president faces, and one capable of moving the staff to decision, keeping big egos satisfied and calm, and resisting the pressure to be purely reactive to momentary distractions. None of this spells Rahm Emanuel.
Daschle was the touted alternative; instead, he went with a crony from Chicago. Word on the street is that we could be looking at Secretary of State John Kerry by the end of the week. Can you feel it?