November 4, 2008.
My children will now spend at least 4 years living in a country led by, without a doubt, the most exceptional individual to be elected to political office in recent, or even distant, memory. And perhaps to banish the inexperience and memories of chaos of the Clinton years, he has already chosen, as his Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel.
So who is this guy? First, let’s chat about what the chief of staff does. Generally, this person corrals the Cabinet secretaries and keeps them in line with regard to the over-all agenda of the president. He or she (actually, unfortunately, this person has never been a “she”) also frequently is a key leader of the team that represents the executive branch to the Congress, pursuing votes and admonishing malcontents in the party. Think Leo in the West Wing. Essentially, the administrative version of the president.
Rahm Emanuel is the two term congressman from Illinois and is a tightly wound ball of hyper-kinetic energy. Since 2007, Emanuel has been the chair of the Democratic Caucus (kind of a big deal). He was head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, an instrumental force in taking the House of Representatives back from the Republicans in 2006. He worked for Paul Simon and was a chief advisor of Bill Clinton.
He is a young guy – 48 – and the father of three children. He has a 100% voting record on choice, supported the initial war resolution on Iraq but has since become a strong and vocal opponent of the war, has been great on the environment and is very well known for being a huge personality to that advocates tenaciously for a progressive agenda.
On paper, it all looks good. Now, let’s back up for a second. One of the key reasons that Obama won Virginia and Indiana and stood a chance in states like Montana and North Dakota, was because the Chair of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean (known in our house as Saint Dean), implemented a strategy of targeting each and every state, regardless of electoral history, as a potential Democratic site of victory. Brilliant. Exceptional. Pure genius.
While Dean struggled to implement this strategy, his most vocal opponent was Rahm Emanuel, who clung to the older strategy of pouring all of the resources into the states most likely to secure victory. Because of this, Emanuel has lost favor with some aspects of the Democratic Party.
In the end, though, the Obama campaign became a combination of both strategies … Dean’s was used to get through the early part of the campaign, and when it came down to the final days, Emanuel’s older strategy was favored to target resources in key states (that’s why Obama never made it to Oregon during the general campaign).
Given this past feud, it looks like there might be some tensions between the party machine and the White House. But you know what? Never before have I trusted a leader to manage disputes, quell unproductive discord and listen to both sides of an argument more than I trust Obama.
Bring on the constructive debate.