In my preliminary research of presidential chiefs of staff, I don’t think I’ve discovered any as partisan as the incumbent, Rahm Emanuel.Â More than any of his predecessors, he has an ideological axe to grind.
He cut his teeth in Chicago politics, his first job in national politics was national campaign director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 1988. Seventeen years later, he would take over that operation which, by definition, is highly partisan. That job seemed particularly suited to the Chicago Democrat. Throughout his career, he has shown a ruthless partisan streak, dedicated to electing Democrats and defeating Republicans.
Indeed, he seems to have long harbored a particular animus against his partisan adversaries.
This seems hardly the individual to administer the executive office of the President of the United States, a man elected, albeit by partisan means, to serve the entire United States.
Given that this particular president who had, before taking office, almost no experience as an administrator, it would seem he would want a gifted experience as his chief of staff, someone who could balance the president’s preference for rhetoric with a competence at administration.
Where he needs a dispassionate administrator, the president has instead appointed a partisan gunslinger. Take a gander at Emanuel’s defense of Obama’s tack of blaming his predecessor:
Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, denied that the president has changed his tone toward the previous administration. He said Obama is “not trying to place blame, but he is trying to say clearly: Here’s what we’ve got and here’s our way out of it. He’s offered a positive alternative to their criticism.”
“The truth is that 98 percent of his speeches are about the future, and 2 percent are about inheritance,” Emanuel said. “Whereas I think for Republicans it’s 2 percent about the future, and 98 percent hope that the people have amnesia.”
He just had to offer that dig in against Republicans.
Shouldn’t a White House chief of staff be above politics?
It is revealing that the president would tap such a partisan for the most important administrative job in the White House. Not a man who whose political experience fits with the new type of politician Mr. Obama claimed to be in the campaign.
As the quotation above reveals, Emanuel is instead one of those people whom Obama repeatedly decries rhetorically. He’s always looking for someone else to blame, always attacking Republicans.
While others think Treasury Secretary Geithner should be the first to go*, I think that Emanuel’s departure would signal that the president understands his first two months in office have been far too partisan and that he intends to shift course and goven in the spirit of his campaign rhetoric of change and postpartisanship.
*And I agree we need someone in that job who inspires greater confidence in the financial markets.