Given the general mood of concern paired with optimism for the future, I felt that it would be productive – and possibly morale boosting – to start assembling our hit list for January when His Holiness, the President-Elect formally assumes office. Doing those of us on the Right a fairly big favor, the President-Elect has named Congressman Rahm Emanuel as his new Chief of Staff. I say big favor, because Emanuel will enter into his new role with lots and lots of baggage, making for a much easier target than an unknown or little known figure like a campaign staffer (Plouffe or Axelrod). Having said all of that, then, let’s take a solid aim at our first target of the season: Rahm Emanuel.
Mr. Emanuel, a former ballet dancer and Sarah Lawrence college dance student, began his political career with fundraising stints on the staff of Paul Simon and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He soon became a part of the Chicago-Daley machine, working for and learning the tricks of political knife-fighting from Richard Daley himself. Mr. Emanuel then left the US for a time to volunteer as a non-frontline member of a foreign nation’s military, the Israel Defense Forces, during the 1991 Iraq War. Subsequently, Mr. Emanuel became President Clinton’s top fundraising man, well-known for using verbal and physical threats to extort money from donors. Indeed, the 1996 election season seemed to have shown Mr. Emanuel in full-form: shortly after President Clinton’s election, when considering a list of the President’s potential new enemies, Emanuel reportedly erupted with rage and began stabbing a knife into a table while screaming out the names of Clinton’s enemies followed by, “Dead! Dead! Dead!”
After the Clinton years, Mr. Emanuel entered the world of investment banking, pocketing a cool $18 million in only two years at Wasserstein Parella. He later entered the political ring himself, winning Illinois’ Fifth Congressional District. Now about to take the next step in climbing to the top of the Democrat power structure, Mr. Emanuel will be President-Elect Obama’s Chief of Staff.
Mr. Emanuel seems to enjoy the frequent political battles that he enters (note Ms. Bendavid’s use of the term “political assassin” to describe Emanuel), he does not always back the winning side, having seen defeat and some measure of disgrace over the Mark Foley and Tim Mahoney affairs. Despite this, Mr. Emanuel is a come-out-swinging kind of guy who is definitely more frothing at the mouth bite than bark. This is Obama’s choice for GOP basher-in-chief and will be our toughest opponent over the next few years.
Having given some background to Mr. Emanuel, I suggest we take a look at potential weaknesses that we might exploit to beat him at his own game:
He is a DLC centrist and a Clintonista. He is not beloved by the Nutroots and the Far Left (Obama’s natural constituents). Forcing him, and Obama, into scuffles between centrist and left positions will weaken Emanuel considerably because he will be forced to either abandon his principles (such as they are) or take an unpopular centrist position.
He still lacks a solid record in national politics. Despite his experience with the DLC, the Clinton White House and the DCCC, Emanuel is still only a three/four term Congressman whose real roots are in Chicago’s Daly machine. Although he has proved very adept at political infighting, he is still not a household name and is not widely respected by most of America. We can definitely use that against him in his early months on the White House staff.
Mr. Emanuel has ties to investment banking and reckless Wall Street moves. Additionally, he is, essentially, a limousine liberal, only too happy to raise taxes, spend prolific amounts of money on his pet projects, and promise more and more to his constituents while sipping dry martinis at high-powered lunches. This is not a “man of the people” type of guy, but rather another Ivy League, Wall Street elitist. He should fit right in with the Obama crowd in that respect, although this image is still a weapon that can be used against him.
Emanuel has a LOT of enemies. He makes Tony Soprano look like a Girl Scout. This is a true, frothing at the mouth attack dog who has no care whatsoever for burning bridges. Cross him and you wind up with a dead fish in your mailbox. This character trait makes him feared, not loved. While certainly successful from a Machiavellian standpoint, even his own allies think he’s a real “toothache.” Working with those whom Mr. Emanuel has burned in the past may help to bring him down.
Emanuel is a temperamental guy. Or, less politely, Mr. Emanuel is a raving, bullying, dangerous psychopath who is in no way averse to using verbal and physical intimidation to get what he wants. This is not the kind of guy who will back down when confronted; his ego is too big. Played the proper way, his temper will certainly work against him. The key is to draw him into a confrontation, get him mad, then let the true “Rhambo” shine through in front of the cameras. In other words, give this lunatic enough rope in public and he will hang himself.
Although Mr. Emanuel has prided himself on his deep connection to his religion and culture, his behavior is at variance with that image. Although a practicing modern Orthodox Jew (like Joseph Lieberman), Mr. Emanuel’s seemingly endless stream of profanity, including the taking of the name of God in vain, violates quite a few of the mitzvots. In fact, following the Sefer Hamitzvot, Mr. Emanuel regularly violates the 6th and 7th mitzvots. Specifically, his profane use of God’s name is a Chillul Hashem, or a desecration of God. This is not only supported by biblical reference (Leviticus 22:32), but also by other Jewish sources: Maimonides, the author of the Sefer Hamitzvot, Rabbi Joseph Telushin’s Jewish Wisdom *(page 316, “[It] is forbidden to use “God” to justify selfish and/or evil causes.”), and Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm’s *To Be a Jew *(Introduction, pages 52-55). Mr. Emanuel’s penchant for bearing grudges and taking revenge on his past opponents are also violations of halakha, mitzvots 20 and 21 under the *Sefer Hamitvot and Lamm, pages 52-55. So, while none of us is as pure as the driven snow, so to speak, Mr. Emanuel’s profligate vulgarity, Mafioso tactics, and lust for revenge mark him out as somewhat less devout than the image he has projected. This is also quite at variance with the image that the President-Elect has projected.
He appears to have some serious tax evasion issues.
Hopefully we can use some or all of the above to work to discredit and defeat Mr. Emanuel and his new boss.
*I recognize that I am not using accepted Chicago Manual of Style citations for the quotes in 6. This is primarily because I suspect that the majority of readers of RS are laypeople who are probably not familiar with stylistic guidelines. I am using the most accessible citation method that I can think of.