Sunday, November 9, 2008

Obama, Emanuel, and Foreign Policy

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 this morning describes 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.

Who will be running who in the White House, especially where Foreign Policy is concerned?