Tuesday, March 2, 2010

OK, We Get It: The Washington Post "Hearts" Rahm Emanuel!

First, Ezra Klein defended Rahm Emanuel against growing concerns that he was failing President Obama. Next, Dana Milbank/Emanuel infamously argued that Emanuel is the only person with good political skills among Obama's senior White House staff. Now, Jason Horowitz has written the latest love letter from the Washington Post to Rahm Emanuel.

In the article, "Hotheaded Emanuel May Be White House Voice of Reason," Horowitz acknowledges that many commentators blame Emanuel for Obama's declining approval ratings. Horowitz, however, in a very glowing essay, sketches out a "contrarian narrative":

Emanuel is a force of political reason within the White House and could have helped the administration avoid its current bind if the president had heeded his advice on some of the most sensitive subjects of the year: health-care reform, jobs and trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts.

It is a view propounded by lawmakers and early supporters of President Obama who are frustrated because they think the administration has gone for the perfect at the expense of the plausible. They believe Emanuel, the town's leading purveyor of four-letter words, a former Israeli army volunteer and a product of a famously argumentative family, was not aggressive enough in trying to persuade a singularly self-assured president and a coterie of true-believer advisers that "change you can believe in" is best pursued through accomplishments you can pass.
The article does not add much substance to the observations of Milbank and Klein -- except that it provides a lot of pithy quotes from Emanuel's Rolodex of friends, which will raise suspicion (yet again) about his (or his friends') connection to Washington Post writers. Overall, the article portrays Emanuel as a misunderstood and ignored voice of reason. It does not, however, take cheap shots at others in the White House (e.g., Jarrett, Axelrod) like the earlier essay by Milbank. Perhaps this is a sign that the Washington Post and Emanuel are responding to criticism of the earlier chapters in this love story.

Ironically, while Horowitz portrays Obama as ungrounded and Emanuel as a pragmatist, the media have typically portrayed Obama as a pragmatist and his liberal critics as unyielding ideologues. The political landscape has certainly changed.

At least one Washington Post writer is having no part in the Emanuel love fest. Colbert King, a huge Obama supporter, wrote a scathing article regarding Emanuel over the weekend. King basically argues that Obama is reaping what he sowed by picking a Washington insider to serve as Chief of Staff.

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