Is Rahm Emanuel Good For the White House?

A front-page Washington Post story calls him "a force of political reason"

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White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is a veteran of the Clinton White House and the basis for a popular West Wing television character. He's also a colorful figure known for hard-charging tactics. Emanuel has drawn frequent fire from the left for his politics-first focus, which has led the White House to compromise on many policies. But Emanuel has his defenders, too. Is he good for the White House, or a liability?

  • Only Rahm Can Save White House  On the front page of The Washington Post, Jason Horowitz explores the love-hate. "Emanuel is a force of political reason within the White House and could have helped the administration avoid its current bind if the president had heeded his advice on some of the most sensitive subjects of the year: health-care reform, jobs and trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts." Many Democrats "believe Emanuel, the town's leading purveyor of four-letter words, a former Israeli army volunteer and a product of a famously argumentative family, was not aggressive enough in trying to persuade a singularly self-assured president and a coterie of true-believer advisers that 'change you can believe in' is best pursued through accomplishments you can pass. "
  • 'Obama Needs Rahm At The Top'  The Washington Post's Dana Milbank loves him some Rahm. "Obama's first year fell apart in large part because he didn't follow his chief of staff's advice on crucial matters. Arguably, Emanuel is the only person keeping Obama from becoming Jimmy Carter," he writes. "Obama's greatest mistake was failing to listen to Emanuel on health care."
  • When You Anger Michelle  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reports that even Michelle Obama is getting impatient with him. "The first lady, according to an associate, was irate [at Milbank's column]. She did not accept Emanuel's denials that he had been the story's source," he writes. "Emanuel famously has trouble keeping his opinions to himself, and he has not censored himself when talking with friends about his duties and his frustrations ... While it's sometimes necessary to defend yourself in service of the president, it is absolutely verboten to throw the boss under the bus."
  • Is Rahm Giving Valuable Advice?  Liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias muses that Rahm has publicly split with the White House largely on national security matters, but Obama remains very popular on national security. "So it's not at all clear to me what political problem having listened to Rahm about KSM and whatnot is supposed to have solved," he writes. "Both common sense and the polling breakdown indicate that dissatisfaction with Obama is driven by the poor performance of the economy since Obama's inauguration. And none of these Rahm retrospectives have given any indication that he had some secret plan to fix the economy that Obama rejected."
  • Maybe He Should Quit   The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart writes, "it's unclear whether his job is really in any danger. But Milbank posed a relevant query during a Feb. 22 online Q&A about his column. 'A better question is why [Emanuel would] want to stay on the job if his advice isn't being followed.' That's a question President Obama ought to put to Emanuel. And what I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall to hear the answer."
  • Politics-Before-Policy Is Bad For Both  Liberal blogger Joe Sudbay slams Emanuel's effort to cut the stimulus from the economist-recommended $1.2 trillion. "If he were the hard-ass we'd all been led to believe he was, Emanuel would have sent Obama to Maine to campaign for the strongest bill possible, in order to get Snowe's and Collin's votes. That's what a real tough Chief of Staff would have done, instead of caving as quickly as possible on the medicine needed to save the country from economic collapse. Emanuel made Obama look weak right off the bat -- and the Republicans saw it immediately."
  • Everything Wrong With Washington  The Washington Post's Ezra Klein doesn't hold back. "The defense of Rahm favored by some Washington Democrats is evidence of everything that is wrong with Washington: It prizes politics rather than policy, and seems interested in the problems Americans are facing only insofar as those problems show up in the president's poll numbers. In this telling, the measure of Obama's success is not how much good he does for the country but how much good he does for congressional reelection campaigns. No wonder people hate this city."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.