Category Archives: Politics

RahmWatch: Emanuel at Daley’s Global Cities Forum

At first I tried to talk myself out of it. But in the end I couldn’t resist treating myself to an impromptu trip to the Windy City, to see Rahm Emanuel speak during the 6th Annual Global Cities Forum at the University of Illinois.

Last Tuesday, Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley hosted municipal leaders from more than 100 cities worldwide in an open discussion of the need for public-private partnerships, to help strengthen cities in the wake of our global economic crisis. In addition to Rahm Emanuel, guests included the mayors of such far-flung cities as Mexico City and Johannesburg, as well as prominent figures from the World Bank, Boeing, and other organizations.

Not only was this a cool event, but it was a rare opportunity to attend what was perhaps the first stop on Rahm’s as-yet-unofficial campaign for elected office (perhaps Chicago mayor?). Unquestionably the superstar of the day, Emanuel took part in the first panel, which also included Bertrand Delanoe, the eloquent and charismatic mayor of Paris; Michael Nutter, Philadelphia’s refreshingly plain-spoken mayor; and Motorola CEO Greg Brown.

Seated dead-center in the semicircle of panelists, Rahm first tackled the subject of the worldwide economic crisis. Noting that the median household income had decreased over the past 10 years, he stressed that governments need to “do more with less”; and he posited the creation of an “infrastructure bank” with public and private funds as one potential solution to the financial quagmire. Of course, since he’s not yet on the campaign trail, he did not provide details on the mechanics of such an arrangement.

Not surprisingly, he also emphasized the need to strengthen collaboration between federal and local governments. President Obama’s Chief of Staff pointed to the recent federal stimulus package — whose passage Rahm largely engineered — as a successful example of this ideal. Nonetheless he also carefully nodded to state and municipal sovereignty, noting that the “local level knows best” what it needs.

At least (unlike certain Supreme Court Justices) he’s no Luddite. Particularly welcome was Rahm’s acknowledgement of the importance of technology as a tool of empowerment whereby citizens can become involved and interact with their governments. (He admitted, however, that the federal government must improve its relationship with technology.) One point that I wish he had elaborated was his encouragement of a regional, rather than division-oriented, approach toward city governance. This sounds interesting, but I’m not quite sure what it means.

Of course, he wouldn’t be Rahm if he hadn’t also taken the opportunity to pimp his own professional achievements. Among the feats he ticked off were his passage of a community colleges bill; his work in Chicago city government and Hope VI housing grants; and his involvement with Race to the Top in Education, which he presented as a successful example of collaboration between Washington and the states.

It was hard not to notice that, while moderator Judy Woodruff (PBS NewsHour) addressed the other panelists as “Mayor” or “Mr.” so-and-so, she referred to the president’s Chief of Staff simply as “Rahm.” Apparently this is standard protocol with him, and it lends a populist touch to his persona. Throughout the event Rahm seemed at ease and gracious — for instance, quickly offering Nutter his own microphone when the Philadephia mayor’s mic failed. Good progressive that he is, although he tends to be carefully centrist, Emanuel also seems to be pretty well informed of cultural trends and the issues facing younger generations.

But now that I’m back in L.A., the question I had last month remains unanswered: will Mayor Daley step down as Chicago mayor and let his friend Rahm run? Did this Global Cities Forum represent Daley’s “passing of the baton” to the ever-ambitious Emanuel? Or will Rahm have to settle for a U.S. Senate run, instead?

Daley wasn’t talking. So I guess we’ll just have to stay tuned.

On Avatar and Obamas

What is the BFD about Avatar, anyway? Is it really that great? Let me know!

Barack and Michelle Obama in the White House theatre


It’s the principle of the thing

RahmWatch: Mayor Daley’s mystery tweet!

This popped up in my HuffPo news stream; it’s a tweet from Mayor Daley of Chicago:


OK, so Tuesday afternoon has come & gone, Daley, what gives? Does this mean what it seems to mean?

Update: alas, a false alarm. Follow-up revealed that the tweet refers only to a Global Cities Forum, held next Tuesday in Chicago, at which Emanuel will appear as a panelist. Interesting news, but not hype-worthy. Well, except to the participants and Chicago-area residents. I don’t think I’ll make it out to Chicago for this one. But if anyone else attends, please comment here with a report!

Pro-gun rallies in Washington

The Huffington Post has (rightfully) called today’s NRA gun rally a “PR FAIL,” considering that today is also the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City domestic terrorist bombing. So I suppose I’m completely un-PC by proudly posting my NRA certification in basic pistol training (below). But, hey, maybe this will convince the LAPD that I’m not a flaming, card-carrying, pinko-hippie-liberal-communist-terrorist, or something:

Seriously, though, I don’t want to be glib about any of our national tragedies. However, I agree with the Supreme Court’s recent decision affirming gun ownership as a constitutional right, as intended by our nation’s founders. Nonetheless, there need to be some limits. I remember one occasion when an ex-boyfriend took me to the house of married friends of his; the couple had a child — a toddler — and they also kept an AK-47 assault weapon by the front door (“just in case”??)! PARENTING FAIL.

I’ll stick to air guns.

RahmWatch: He’s back!

Obama & Emanuel return to the WH after Nuclear Summit (Reuters 4/12/10)

Oh Rahm, how we’ve missed you! We’re not sure why you stayed out of the spotlight during the first half of April (after all, you belong on center stage), but you did a pretty good job of keeping a low profile. Our daily searches for news of you yielded only one rumored sighting outside of DC. Meanwhile we had to content ourselves with mere fantasies of naked shower tickle fights. How could you leave us this way?

No matter, we’re just glad you’re back. All is forgiven … no questions asked! Just check in now and then — when you can — to let us know how you’re doing … OK?

Who heads the U.S. death squads?

Last year renowned investigative reporter Seymour Hersh publicly discussed JSOC, a longtime black-ops U.S. military operation that Hersh describes as an “executive assassination ring.” Hersh, who writes for the New Yorker, made his statements as part of a public talk at the University of Minnesota. He’s been investigating these issues for a forthcoming book.

When asked whether covert hit squads run by the White House continue to this day, Hersh said yes, and elaborated:

“After 9/11 … the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven’t been called on it yet. …

“Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command — JSOC it’s called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to … the secretary of defense.

“Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths.

“Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.

“… they are young men that went into the Special Forces. The Delta Forces you’ve heard about. Navy Seal teams. Highly specialized. In many cases, they were the best and the brightest. Really, no exaggerations. Really fine guys that went in to do the kind of necessary jobs that they think you need to do to protect America. And then they find themselves torturing people.

“I’ve had people say to me — five years ago, I had one say: ‘What do you call it when you interrogate somebody and you leave them bleeding and they don’t get any medical committee and two days later he dies. Is that murder? What happens if I get before a committee.?’ But they’re not gonna get before a committee.”

Of course, this comes as no surprise to me or to many others. However, it does beg the question: who is running the operation NOW? Because if there’s one lesson we’ve learned in our country’s brief history, it’s that power is addictive. So it may be that JSOC (and perhaps other such black-ops federal death squads) functioned without oversight until the last Bush administration; but if, as Hersh claims, JSOC reported to Cheney (GWB’s “shadow President”), then Cheney’s departure from the White House created a power vacuum that someone must have jumped at the chance to fill. The “inspirational” Barack Obama would likely not want to dirty his hands with running a secret assassination ring. And, according to Hersh, JSOC doesn’t report to the defense secretary. So at present, JSOC and/or other assassination squads must be either functioning without any authority or reporting to another figure — likely someone with White House heft. I’m speculating, of course, but Obama’s uber-powerful Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel currently fills the role closest to that of a “shadow President,” and may be JSOC’s go-to guy.

Well, if so, I’d rather have Rahm Emanuel in charge than Cheney. But we probably won’t begin to know the truth until another generation has passed and relevant documents start to be declassified.

RahmWatch: SNL’s Samberg does Emanuel

This is a classic:

View the video on GawkerTV

More on this topic:

  • “Fucknutsville” (a term Rahm uses to refer to Washington, DC)
  • “Knucklefuck” (Rahm’s personal variation on the word “knucklehead,” which is apparently not strong enough to suit him)
  • “Fucking retarded” (Rahm’s characterization of a faction of Democrats, which led to controversy and the SNL spoof above)
  • “Let’s not nominate fucking idiots” (Rahm’s formula for successful presidential elections)
  • “You guys aren’t going to ratfuck me, are you?” (Rahm’s query to a reporter)

The above list is mostly taken from Naftali Bendavid’s book The Thumpin’: How Rahm Emanuel and the Democrats Learned to Be Ruthless and Ended the Republican Revolution. According to the author, Emanuel’s mother blames herself for her son’s frequent dropping of the f-bomb, explaining that she never forbade her sons to curse. An amusing anecdote appears at the end of Bendavid’s poignant recounting of the incident in which a teenaged Rahm accidentally severed his middle finger and narrowly cheated death:

“After six weeks, Emanuel got fed up with being in the hospital, pulled the IV tube out of his arm, and checked himself out. ‘Afterwards I was worried that the fever might have affected his mentality or his intellect,’ his mother said. ‘But the first time he woke up I realized he was cursing, and it was, “He’s going to be okay.”‘”


RahmWatch: Emanuel as Chicago’s next mayor?

Rumor has it Rahm Emanuel wants to run next year for mayor of Chicago.

The problem: he’s insisted that he won’t oppose his friend Mayor Daley, and sources say Daley plans on running again in 2011. Therefore, to queries regarding his interest in the job, Emanuel has issued a classic Washington-style “denial” that of course doesn’t deny anything at all.

Chicago mayor could be a great role for Rahm. During his years serving in high-octane positions in the Clinton and Obama administrations, he’s proven amply that he’s a team player. However, his own personality has sometimes overshadowed those of his bosses, and I suspect he may be more suited to a position as lord of his own purlieu. Moreover, after helping to run the country, Emanuel’s more than likely capable of running Chicago. Maybe it’s just curiosity on my part, but I’d like to see him stretch his wings in an executive capacity.

But what will Daley do? Clearly the Democrats owe Rahm big-time by now; he’s helped them regain Congress in 2006, shepherded through the seemingly-doomed-but-historic healthcare bill, and accomplished other near-Herculean feats. I say it’s time they gave him his due.

RahmWatch: What’s going on in the White House?

Not going gentle into that good night

Does anyone else besides me have a bad feeling about all this? Conventional wisdom holds it that Emanuel and his sandpaper persona are on the way out of their post as Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff. Internal tensions are on the rise, and the West Wing’s not big enough for the two of them, or something to that effect.

OK, no big deal, right? Staffers change all the time at the White House … right?

But just look at this guy.

I’m no political insider, but what I’ve gleaned of Emanuel’s personality profile instinctively causes me to urge Obama to handle RIE with extreme care.

Nonetheless, I’m rooting for Rahm. Not only because I think our president needs him; I’m also beginning to suspect that we may all need Rahmbo more than we know.