The Transactional Rahm Emanuel

In the Clinton White House, Emanuel's specialty was helping to pass legislation that required centrist coalitions, like NAFTA, a crime bill, and welfare reform. "He's a partisan in the sense that he's a strong Democrat, but he's not an ideological Democrat," Stanley Greenberg said. "He's not ideologically liberal. He comes out of Chicago politics, which is more transactional."

If you haven't read the Ryan Lizza profile of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in  The New Yorker, you really should. It is an entertaining and informative read if a bit on the fawning side of the equation. However, be warned Mr. Emanuel may be all about the art of the deal, his is also the art of the profane and colorful language.

For example, here is Mr. Emanuel responding to criticism from Paul Krugman and other progressive voices that the fiscal stimulus was too spending light and too tax cut rich.

"They have never worked the legislative process," Emanuel said of critics like the Times columnist Paul Krugman, who argued that Obama's concessions to Senate Republicans--in particular, the tax cuts, which will do little to stimulate the economy--produced a package that wasn't large enough to respond to the magnitude of the recession. "How many bills has he passed?"

"Now, my view is that Krugman as an economist is not wrong. But in the art of the possible, of the deal, he is wrong. He couldn't get his legislation."

The stimulus bill was essentially held hostage to the whims of Collins, Snowe, and Specter, but if Al Franken, the apparent winner of the disputed Minnesota Senate race, had been seated in Washington, and if Ted Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, had been regularly available to vote, the White House would have needed only one Republican to pass the measure. "No disrespect to Paul Krugman," Emanuel went on, "but has he figured out how to seat the Minnesota senator?" (Franken's victory is the subject of an ongoing court challenge by his opponent, Norm Coleman, which the national Republican Party has been happy to help finance.) "Write a fucking column on how to seat the son of a bitch. I would be fascinated with that column. O.K.?" Emanuel stood up theatrically and gestured toward his seat with open palms. "Anytime they want, they can have it," he said of those who are critical of his legislative strategies. "I give them my chair."

It's not Paul Krugman's job nor mine to pass legislation. It is yours and progressives understand that we will win some battles and lose some with the Administration. But from our point of view, this is not the time to sacrifice neither our values or our beliefs on how to achieve long cherished goals. Frankly, the time to speak out is now especially if as Mr. Emanuel concedes that Krugman et al are correct on the economic merits.

It is our job to hold the Administration's feet to the fire and  enact legislation consistent with the progressive agenda. Mr. Emanuel should also rest comfortably and realize that the progressive community and the blogosphere in particular is here to help not hinder and if at times we are being critical it is more because we believe that the time is right to restore fairness and equality of opportunity as social virtues.

In crisis, there is opportunity certainly but more than the expediency of the moment there is the necessity of doing what is right. We believe that the time to enact a broad progressive agenda is now. Our is not the pursuit of possible but the pursuit of a moral ideal, a society based on equal social justice for all.

And we are aware that getting some of the legislation passed will require compromise with the more moderate elements of the Republican Party but that doesn't mean that the progressive community shouldn't strive to see our beliefs enacted into legislation.

Tags: rahm emanuel, The Obama White House (all tags)

Comments

7 Comments

Re: The Transactional Rahm Emanuel

The key word missing from his lexicon is leadership. To use that power of leadership to leverage the direction of the outcomes in the legislature. When Bush announced TARP, his people made it clear that the number was choosen to influence the psychology of the legislative branch.  I hoped after the last error (the stimulus) in confusing the process of being a President with being a legislative representative that they would realize that they are more in control of the transaction than they give themselves credit. The President has the bullypulpit that the represenative does not have. They define the debate. The middle does not care except that it must be the middle of something. Whether that is the middle of further left or right is real debate, and the President determines the parameters. If you listen to the very Senators who voted for the stimulus, they all used the President's own words to define the terms fo the transaction. The middle for them was Obama's decision to start with 750 bil. Thus they kept that number. Maybe part of the problem is I am a lowling without any power. Therefore, I listen to what everyone is saying. From what the representatives said, and from what Rahm is saying- it seems he does not appreciate how what they do inpacts the psychology of the rest of what they deal with later.

by bruh3 2009-02-22 05:57PM | 0 recs
Am I missing something?

Can you please tell me how the "tax cut" portion is anything but the same campaign promise the President made while he was running?

Republicans called it a handout then and now.  It seems untruthful to say it was a Republican concession.  What am I missing?

by Classical Liberal 2009-02-22 07:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Am I missing something?

I agree. Republicans had added in a lot of tax cut pork that was cut from the final bill because none of those Senators actually voted for the stimulus. All of the tax cuts seem reasonable and beneficial to me, and I am somebody who was opposed to the idea in general.

The bill has nothing horrible in it. Even the AMT fix is fine, because it would have been done anyway. So the bill has less spending than I'd like, but all of the money goes to things that I think are very good.

by Lolis 2009-02-22 08:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Am I missing something?

It is Obama's "tax cut" pledge from his campaign and has nothing to do with tax cuts republicans wanted.  Nothing was cut from the final bill because it was never there.  I could be wrong, but I just feel like this line of reasoning is being untruthful.

I only put "tax cut" in quotes because he is trying to touch so many people this one time tax rebate being delivered as a tax cut seems odd and really is a small amount.  

If the bill did not have enough spending - how much do think it should have had?

Thanks!

by Classical Liberal 2009-02-23 05:48AM | 0 recs
Re: The Transactional Rahm Emanuel

I agree with Jane Hamsher who called the piece a "5200 word lap dance."  Rahm probably figured it was time to leak some good PR about himself for a change.

by KimPossible 2009-02-23 03:52AM | 0 recs
Re: The Transactional Rahm Emanuel

Jane is bloody brilliant. Did she really? I have to go read her piece. It is on the fawning side. I was amused by all the expletives but struck really by his comments on Krugman.

by Charles Lemos 2009-02-23 02:37PM | 0 recs
Re: The Transactional Rahm Emanuel

One wishes that he would stop doing this for a change.  He brags too much about himself, even getting a book published-less than a year after it happened-about how he was responsible fot the 2006 democratic electoral victories.  Which is actually rather questionable.

by demjim 2009-02-23 06:34AM | 0 recs

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