Saturday, August 15, 2009

The fall guy of the fall

Is somebody setting up Rahm Emanuel to take the blame for the failures of the Obama adminstration to pass health care reform and climate legislation?

Today's New York Times says "Mr. Emanuel is emerging as perhaps the most influential White House chief of staff in a generation." And then reporters Peter Baker and Jeff Zeleny write this:

"As the principal author of Mr. Obama’s do-everything-at-once strategy, he stands to become a figure of consequence in his own right if the administration stabilizes the economy and financial markets, overhauls the health care system and winds down one war while successfully prosecuting another."

Now, here's the question: Who described Rahm Emanuel as "the principal author of Mr. Obama's do-everything-at-once strategy?"

There's an unmistakably negative tone to the phrase "do-everything-at-once." It sounds like someone who talked to the reporters was conveying the view that it was an error. Otherwise the phrase might have been something like "pursuing a bold agenda."

But the real tip-off is the characterization of Mr. Emanuel as the "principal author" of the strategy. It's just not plausible that anyone made the decision to pursue that strategy except the president himself.

Maybe they're splitting hairs, and trying to convey the impression that the president set the goal and Mr. Emanuel created the game plan.

But that just reinforces the impression that Mr. Emanuel is, to quote an old joke, "on the roof and we can't get him down."

Health care reform is on the roof with Mr. Emanuel (e-mail me at if you want to hear the rest of that joke), and it's a safe bet that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will make every effort to avoid the blame for its demise.

So the Democrats on the ballot in 2010 will need somebody to blame. The special interests? The Republicans? Not good enough. President Obama's efforts to get the interest groups on board created too many photos of the suspects looking cooperative and helpful, and the Republicans don't have enough votes to block a sidewalk.

Speaking of suspects, the New York Times story reads like a chapter in an Agatha Christie novel:

Mr. Emanuel presides over a White House where people are defined by whether they went through the fires of the campaign. He did not. When Mr. Obama invited longtime aides like Mr. Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, to Camp David recently, Mr. Emanuel was not included.

He gets along well with most other members of the Obama team, including Mr. Axelrod, a longtime Chicago friend who served as a witness at his wedding. But as a head-knocking addition to the tightly knit "no drama Obama" world, Mr. Emanuel has almost inevitably been in the midst of some tensions. Mr. Emanuel was wary of Valerie Jarrett, the president’s close friend, joining the White House staff. In the intervening months, the two "have spent a lot of time working at that" relationship and "get along well now," Mr. Podesta said.
So the murderer is still a mystery, but the body has been positively identified.

Rahm Emanuel could be out by Christmas.

Copyright 2009