|On 3 March, again in The Washington Post, Jason Horowitz specifically went about rehabilitating Emanuel: he is not The Enforcer, at least not the rough Chicago eat-'em-alive hit man we were led to believe. No, Rahm 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."
The idea was that Obama should have pared down his to-do list, watered down what was left, re-ordered the priorities, and softened his approach overall. He tried to do too much too soon, and in the wrong order. Democratic insiders are "blaming Obama and his closest campaign aides for not listening to Emanuel." This theme was now a part of Washington conversation, turning into Conventional Wisdom in short order.
Finally, this Thursday, 4 March, David Broder, of all people, questioned the theme in his column in The Post:
".... the president of the United States has been portrayed as a weakling and a screw-up who is wrecking his administration despite everything that his chief of staff, Rahm Emanel, can do to make things right."
Broder considers this theme to be fiction. He did acknowledge that such an drumbeat of criticism "sounded like the kind of orchestrated leaks that often precede a forced resignation." One problem: Obama the President is the one being dissed, and it is unlikely that Obama would be forced to resign while Emanuel the chief of staff remained---- it usually works the other way around. According to Broder, Emanuel accepted the job of chief of staff reluctantly, and is utterly loyal to the President, so he is not the source of all these "leaks."(Johnathan Capehart, also in The Post, agreed that Rahm had not been the source of the comments.)
Given that Obama's poll numbers have been savaged by the continuing bad economy, and that Republicans have seized the moment to blockade every one of Obama's initiatives, and given that Rahm really, really "likes to win" (something everyone agrees is true), Broder hypothesizes that Emanuel had expressed his frustration to close friends, and the friends chose to make strategic leaks to journalists in a frantic effort to exonerate their pal. By doing so, says Broder, they are actually undermining the president. Milbank apparently repeats what these friends say, calling Obama "airy and idealistic," caving in to bullying from both Republicans and Democrats, leading Broder to say "I hope the mullahs in Iran don't believe this." So do I.
While I have no special contacts feeding me covert info (I observe from my perch 14 miles from the Capitol) the fact is, I see this whole brouhaha differently from Broder's view, which is that Rahm Emanuel's friends are protecting him by promoting these leaks. I think that what we have here is a massive effort by the Washington Establishment to whip Obama into line, maneuver him into going along with the dominant worldview and status quo supported by previous Presidents, whether Democratic or Republican, since the time of Reagan (except for the unfortunate Jimmy Carter, whom they hounded from office), and most especially supported by the Republican Party, reflecting powerful corporatist and Wall Street interests. Listen to the talking point phraseology employed, that Obama's first year "fell apart," he tried to do "too much," and that Obama is "remote and professorial" or "out of touch with middle America's reality."
It is taken for granted that trying to have Congress perform its constitutional function of actually legislating on its own is a sign of weakness, or that attempting to negotiate bipartisan solutions openly is a phony bit of street theatre, or that actually giving up bargaining chips to meet opponents half-way is caving in to bullying---- all this inadvertently betrays the Rovian playbook attitude which is now Conventional Wisdom. The caper of orchestrated "leaks" praising Rahm Emanuel over Barack Obama is, to me, just another calculated effort by the entrenched Establishment to control this rather balky and unpredictable chief executive. How dare he step out of line! That the tactic weakens the country against its enemies is of no importance compared to preservation of power by the selfish Establishment.
Revealingly, Harold Meyerson, in an op ed article printed in the midst of this Rahm-Barack tempest, wrote about "Fortress Wall Street" in The Washington Post on 3 March. According to Meyerson, despite the fact that the major Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs, were instrumental in causing our present economic troubles, serious and effective re-regulation is not occurring, and "most every Obama administration proposal to rein in the financial sector has hit a wall." Even the idea of a free-standing Consumer Financial Protection Agency has been gutted, and if any such watered down agency even survives and is passed, it will be placed under the Federal Reserve, which is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. Regulate those toxic derivatives? Forget that, most of those timebombs have been exempted from being listed on any exchange by a combination of all Republican legislators plus a few "center-right" Democrats simply because the six big investment banks wanted the exemption.
As Meyerson says,
"Over the past two years, no group has received more government support, or has more rigidly opposed government regulation, than the banks. Compared to Wall Street, the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries are pushovers."
If you put all of these together (Wall Street, pharma, and health insurance) you have an unbeatable combination of dominant corporotists. I think these are the ones bullying Obama, trying to convince him he should be afraid, very afraid---- of going against their wishes.