Obama’s White House is run by Rahm Emanuel, a former House leader who was generally considered to be on a fast track to the speakership before he resigned to become chief of staff, and it is teeming with aides plucked from the senior ranks of both chambers. Obama seems to think that the dysfunction in Washington isn’t only about the heightened enmity between the parties; it’s also about the longstanding mistrust between the two branches of government that stare each other down from twin peaks on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Rahm Emanuel is officially a Washington caricature. He's the town's resident leviathan, a bullying, bruising White House chief of staff who is a prime target for the failings of the Obama administration.
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.
An astonishing piece of political journalism appeared in Tuesday's Washington Post. Not astonishing for the scoop or hard work it evinced, although the reporter, Jason Horowitz, is a very good one. Astonishing for how it may have gotten into the paper in the first place. For what it says about the feuds within the Obama administration. And most of all for what it tells us about how wisdom is defined in this town.
Under the headline Hotheaded Emanuel may be White House voice of reason, the article goes on at great length for a newspaper piece – maybe 1,500 words or so – describing the ways in which Emanuel, alone among the top White House brass, has his finger on the pulse of Congress and (by implication) the nation and has tried to steer Obama toward wise action. This comes on the heels of a column by Dana Milbank in the Post about 10 days ago making the same case.
Coincidence? Probably not.
The Milbank column, as I noted at the time, seemed pretty clearly to have been done with Emanuel's cooperation. Milbank has said he didn't speak to Emanuel, but obviously Emanuel's points of view on various matters could have been communicated to him through others