Category Archives: Rahm Emanuel

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.

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!

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.

Rahm Emanuel in 2016?

Rahm Israel Emanuel

After doing some initial digging on my new favorite topic — current White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel — I’ve come to a surprising conclusion:

The only way that Emanuel will not become a U.S. President is if he decides he doesn’t want the job.

In his half-century on the planet, Emanuel has made a meteoric rise from impoverished Chicago origins to become (according to Gawker and The New York Times) “the second most powerful man in the country,” with the Times adding that he is “one of the highest-profile chiefs of staff in recent memory.”

Excuse me, but “second most powerful man in America” means: second most powerful person IN THE WORLD. That’s right; not Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi. No longer Bill or Hillary. No one in the now-defunct Bush clan. No, not even (good Lord) Dick Cheney. No; RAHM FUCKING EMANUEL.

In fact, it may be that use of the word “second” is no more than a courtesy to President Obama, who himself defers to Emanuel on major decisions. According to a story in this week’s Washington Post, no White House decision is final until it has passed through Rahm’s office. By various accounts, the Chicago politician has masterminded such major initiatives as the economic stimulus package, Congress’s budget bill, and even U.S. foreign policy. All of which caused the Times to remark last year that Rahm is “clearly more chief than staff.” Dismayed Republicans recently noted that Mr. Emanuel apparently even steers decisions in the Treasury Department, where “’Rahm wants it’” has become an unofficial mantra.” Insiders largely credit him with orchestrating the Democrats’ landslide victory in the 2006 elections; as Illinois Republican Rep. Ray LaHood conceded, “Rahm did what no one else could do in seven cycles.”

The more you explore his personal and professional history, the clearer the message becomes: whatever Rahm wants, Rahm gets.

Evidently the amount of power Emanuel has amassed is striking panic into the hearts of Republicans, who have nonetheless fought back only feebly against the type-A alpha male. Among their almost-pathetic recent attempts have been calls for his resignation by (1) Jane Hamsher and Grover Norquist, who demanded an investigation into Emanuel’s activites at Freddie Mac; and (2) former Alaska governor/national joke Sarah Palin, who complained on her Facebook page that Emanuel’s recent use of the word “retarded” in reference to a faction of Democrats constituted a slur against her own disabled child. (Yeah, you figure that one out.) In general, however, Republican criticism of Rahm has been muted. As one journalist remarked, the GOP is too intimidated by Emanuel to publicly criticize him.

Little wonder. Rahm’s hard-charging persona is the stuff of legend; in his memoir My Life, Bill Clinton described Emanuel as “so aggressive that he made [Clinton] seem laid-back.” The internet is replete with stories depicting Emanuel as a politician of the Chicago nouveau-mafioso ilk — from Capone-worthy tales of tabletop-stabbings to anecdotes of dead animals sent to unlucky souls who ended up on Emanuel’s shit list.

Naturally, the amalgamation of such concentrated power and the often-abrasive personality of the man wielding it have won Rahm his share of enemies. Recently some have griped a bit louder about the oft-overbearing personality of the man who sports the nickname “Rahmbo.” Last year, when Rahm tried to prevent unpopular New York governor David Paterson from running in the upcoming election, New Yorkers complained that he was interfering in local matters. The White House forced Emanuel to publicly apologize for the “retarded” comment that made Palin apoplectic. And early this year, the New York Post parroted the conventional wisdom of Washington pundits who predicted that Emanuel’s abrasive style will result in his imminent departure from his White House post; talking heads on NBC’s “McLaughlin Group” crowed that Rahm was “destined for political oblivion” by this year’s end.

Far be it from me to question such unassailable sources, but I think they’re dead wrong. Whether or not he leaves his stint as Chief of Staff, Rahm Israel Emanuel will never go gently into that good night.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s certainly not impervious to attack. And a personality such as his is bound to have stashed some skeletons in his closet over the years. But, as the saying goes, no one kicks a dead dog. And Rahm’s been in the hot seat before. For example, he suffered a setback early in his tenure under Clinton, after a set-to with Hillary led to his demotion. For most souls, this turn of events would have spelled defeat in no uncertain terms. But true to form, Emanuel bounced back, soon became one of Bill Clinton’s top advisers, and is now Hillary’s new boss. Anyone with such character traits and formidable gifts as his must have a string of similar stories.

The point is that, once the indefatigable Rahm Israel Emanuel has identified a goal, he will persist until he has landed his prey. Even if, as some opine, his stint as Obama’s Chief of Staff soon ends, he will not be the type to skulk in the wings. The intense aggression, passion, and expressiveness within him demand center stage in the international arena.

Of course, a decision about the presidency is not solely Mr. Emanuel’s to make. The American people will, after all, have some say in the matter. Will they decide that “Rahmbo” is too caustic, too smart, too Jewish, too short (most reports place Emanuel between 5’7″ and 5’9″)?

Well, in recent years the American public twice elected (?) the terminally snide George W. Bush; fawned over the allegedly brilliant/psychotic Bill Clinton, who was rumored to have committed scores of murders; and exuberantly installed Barack Obama, the Harvard-educated son of a black African. Overall, we seem to be pretty tolerant of our leaders’ idiosyncrasies. I suspect that Americans will forgive all else, as long as our presidents make us feel protected, reassured, and entertained. I have little doubt that Emanuel can deliver on the first and last of these requirements. It’s the “reassuring” part that’s questionable; can Rahmbo “bland himself up” enough to become palatable to a generation of Americans accustomed to presidents who often seem more like game-show hosts than like Commanders-in-Chief?

I’d be willing to wager that, as with seemingly everything else, if Rahm sets this goal in his sights, all obstacles will crumble before him. The only real question is whether the U.S. presidency is his kind of game. But whether or not he ultimately aims for the Oval Office, I’m convinced that we won’t hear the last of Emanuel for many years to come.

Will he ultimately run for the presidency of the United States? Well … that, like so many other weighty issues, is for Rahm Emanuel to decide.

Take it from Caesar — he knew!

When I saw this photo of Rahm Emanuel today, I thought immediately of the following observation by Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s classic tragedy:

“Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.”

The lean and hungry Rahm Emanuel

Gena Mason and Rahm Emanuel – separated at birth?

Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel

Well, there is an age difference of a number of years. However, we do share the same birthday, November 29 (Sagittarius). We have a few other traits in common, as well, such as intensity, ambition, a penchant for drama, and a relentless persistence that can cross the line into obsession. We were both born in Chicago, both love to swim, and both also studied ballet!

Revolutionary/rocker Gena Mason

Fun fact: President Barack Obama’s ballet-dancing, pseudo-mafioso Chief of Staff once sent a political enemy a dead fish through the mail.
Got good Rahm gossip? Comment here, or email gena@genamason.com.