Politico published a great look at Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) last night that discusses the message Obama's choice for White House Chief of Staff sends to the nation and to our representatives in Washington. Emanuel is feisty, to say the least. In the Clinton White House in 1993, where he served as an aide, Hillary Clinton and then-Chief of Staff Mack McLarty tried to "ease him out" of his position - which he fought virulently for, refusing to leave until Bill Clinton told him to his face to go - something he knew would not happen. He is a strong Democratic leader, but as is being repeatedly pointed out, he is not an idealogical choice. While Obama is not sending a message of bipartisanship with this pick (and really, the President's Chief of Staff should be someone who can speak on behalf of the president - a "reach across the aisle" choice would not be trusted by people who need to know that when the President is not around, his Chief of Staff will tell them what the President would have said). The signal he is sending with the choice is that he wants to make things happen, and make them happen quickly, from day one in office. Emanuel is, even according to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a good choice. He had this to say in a statement yesterday:
"This is a wise choice by President-elect Obama.
"Rahm knows Capitol Hill and has great political skills. He can be a tough partisan but also understands the need to work together. He is well-suited for the position of White House Chief of Staff.
"I worked closely with him during the presidential debate negotiations which were completed in record time. When we hit a rough spot, he always looked for a path forward. I consider Rahm to be a friend and colleague. He's tough but fair. Honest, direct, and candid. These qualities will serve President-elect Obama well.
"Rahm understands the challenges facing our nation and will, consistent with the agenda set by President-elect Obama, work to find common ground where it exists. I look forward to working with him in his new position and will continue to do everything I can to help find a pathway forward on the difficult problems facing our nation."
Not sure whether one would really want Graham's endorsement (it's kinda like when McCain got Cheney's endorsement in the final days of the campaign, but with less dire consequences), but my point in including it is that Rahmbo's appointment to this post can be respected by both parties.
There are those, of course, who feel this choice is a slap in the face of all of us who thought Obama would bring real change to the White House, starting off by picking a staff full of newbies and outsiders, apparently. John Kass over at the Trib points out that Emanuel is a Chicago Daley machine guy - hardly one to transcend politics as usual.
Here's what I think: Rahm Emanuel is Obama's personal confidant. He also has several important policy disagreements with Obama, and is extraordinarily blunt, making him ideal as an aide. He also really, truly knows how to get work done in Washington. He is in touch with Republicans and Democrats, and he makes things happen. Obama, a relative newbie to practical application of the process, needs someone who understands the logistics of the White House well. Emanuel is an outstanding choice.
Next on the agenda - the Secretary of State appointment. Looks like it's down to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, and Massachusettes Senator John Kerry. No-brainer, says I: my vote is for Bill Richardson. I just want to hug him. Shouldn't you want to hug your SecState?