Sunday, November 9, 2008

First indicator...

President-elect Obama has made his first decision on staffing his administration, and has picked Rahm Emmanuel to be his Chief of Staff. What, if anything, does this decision say about where an Obama administration will head on policy? There seems to be two general lines of reaction - one worried about various facets of Emmanuel's history, the other cheered by the choice of a "can do," rough and tough, "enforcer."

So, what is worrisome to some re "Rahmbo" Emmanuel's background? In no particular order:
  • His pro-Israel hawkishness (as evidenced by his serving as an IDF civilian volunteer during the 1991 Gulf war; his 2003 letter to President Bush - "... "We were deeply dismayed to hear your criticism of Israel for fighting acts of terror ..." - criticizing him for being insufficiently pro-Israel; his July 2006 vote for a house resolution backing Israel's bombing of Lebanon that caused thousands of civilian victims; and other examples...)
  • He was the only Democratic House member from Illinois to vote for the Gulf war... and while chairing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006 he picked a large number of pro-war candidates (note: Emmanuel was 'credited' with masterminding the Democratic victory, even though of the 22 candidates he 'hand-picked' only 13 won, during the Democratic 'tidal wave.')
  • He helped President Clinton get NAFTA passed...
  • At one point he was an investment banker for Wasserstein Parella, subsequently a recipient of copious "special interest" hedge fund donations, a director at Freddie Mac (2002) when a number of irregularities occurred (note: the OFHEO subsequently criticized the board - "... The lack of attention by senior management and the Board of Directors to those functions resulted in transactions not being recorded in financial statements in accordance with GAAP. Finally, senior management and the Board failed to establish and maintain adequate internal control systems ..."); and at various times has fought against increased financial regulation, etc...
OK, so this blogger doesn't necessarily have issues with all of these positions. However, given candidate Obama's positions against NAFTA, against "special interests," against the Iraq war, against the lack of financial regulation, etc., etc. it is interesting to note that the personal qualities that Emmanuel brings to the table (i.e. his toughness, his centrism, his "having Obama's back," etc.) trump all supposed policy differences... It is also extremely amusing to see folks such as the HuffPo community lining up to praise the selection of a man whose positions so totally contradict the current zeitgeist of most of the denizens there!

Hail to the Chief of Staff
Obama, Emanuel and Israel
'Do What You Got Elected to Do'
More on R. Emanuel and US Mideast policy
Rahm Emmanuel - Wikipedia
Obama means business – just ask his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel

Updated November 15th:

Nov 13th Rahm Emmanuel called American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee President Mary Rose Oakar to apologise for comments made by his father...

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