Rahm Emanuel Is a Softie

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White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has long had a reputation of being a calculating, bare-knuckled tactician. He once sent a pollster a dead fish in a box, he'd allegedly "sell his mother to get a vote" and who can forget his naked locker room confrontation with Eric Massa? But is Emanuel's take-no-prisoners reputation a media myth? New York Times columnist David Brooks makes the case:

In my experience, Rahm’s reputation for profanity and rage is vastly overstated. On several occasions I thought I was finally going to see him on the rampage. In March 2009, I wrote a column arguing that Obama was not the fiscal moderate he pretended to be. Rahm asked me to stop by his office that afternoon. I came wearing my asbestos underwear, but Rahm calmly made his case with graphs and charts...

Over all, Rahm is a warmhearted Machiavellian. On the one hand, he is a professional strategist. He surveys the landscape and figures out how he can push or maneuver people into getting what he wants. He ran a disciplined White House. On the other hand, he is not one of these cold-eyed tacticians who is always hedging his bets. He’s not one of these butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-his-mouth guys.

Any smart pat of butter would spot him at 100 yards and flee. That’s because Rahm is completely in touch with his affections and aversions. He knows who and what he loves — Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, the city of Chicago — and there is nothing hedged about his devotion to those things. He may be a professional tactician, but he speaks the language of loyalty and commitment, not the language of calculations and self-interest.

On top of being a devoted, warm-hearted soul, Rahm is also, says Brooks, something of an "urban cowboy."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.