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A Quiz for Would-Be Appointees

I'm puzzled about something.

Suppose there's an historic election at a difficult time in your country's history, and the winner decides he needs your help. The president-elect, eager to make a fast and smooth transition, calls you and says: "Please be my White House chief of staff."

You say:
a) Yes, sir!
b) I'm honored, but it's not the right position for me now.
c) Hmmm. . . lemme get back to you.

I would have thought that the only possible responses were (a) and (b). Apparently, though, Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois Congressman, picked (c). I heard on NPR this morning that he's talking Obama's offer over with his family. Puts his would-be boss in
a rather awkward position, no?

Another prospective commander-in-chief might have interpreted even momentary equivocation, much less hours of semi-public mulling, as a sign of effrontery. Fortunately
for Emanuel, that doesn't seem to be true of Barack Obama.

This is not a terribly big deal in the scheme of things, and it looks like a resolution, probably involving Emanuel's acceptance, is in the offing. Still, Obama's election was not exactly a surprise. How come this wasn't already a done deal?

UPDATE 12:32 p.m.: Emanuel Accepts

By Charles Lane  | November 6, 2008; 11:33 AM ET
Categories:  Lane  | Tags:  Charles Lane  
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Ernst Rohm had to check with the Jew Hivemind to make sure that no other Zionist Jew had been handpicked by Israel for the position.

Posted by: omega_man | November 6, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse

As Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Remarkable as it might seem, it may just be that for once "discussing things with my family" might be accurate rather than a smokescreen. I have no idea, but the possibility should not be dismissed out of hand that this time, it is the truth.

As for why not decide beforehand, well, just maybe Emmanuel wanted to focus on the election until it was over. He does seem to be rather singleminded on such subjects.
And it hardly seems sensible to seek counsel from others before the offer has been made- looks pretty pesumptuous.

Posted by: jhherring | November 6, 2008 12:25 PM | Report abuse

I am surprised that they hadn't discussed it up until now. If Obama just asked him, then the delay is Obama's fault, not Rahm Emanuel's.

The WH Chief of Staff does not have a life except for making sure that the President has a life. Emanuel knows that from having worked in the White House under Clinton.

He and his family will need to be in agreement that it will be ok for him to put them on hold for four years so he can do the job. Most chiefs of staff don't make it past four year because the position is so grueling.

He also has his own political ambitions. When was the the last time that you heard of a WH chief-of-staff emerging to be a major political player in an elected or Cabinet-level position after they had been chief of staff?

Posted by: raydh | November 6, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Umm, since when do people not have some time to decide on such a big position? It seems silly to me to criticize Obama for planning his transition team before the election and then complaining he didn't have his Chief of Staff lined up seconds after the election ended. Give me a break.

Posted by: stgirl | November 6, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

"This is not a terribly big deal in the scheme of things". Mr. Lane, look in the mirror and say that five times, then perhaps you can break the evil Fox News enchantment that has you spouting absurd trivial attacks on President-Elect Obama. This is so far off the radar for the millions of real people outside the Beltway. Pick something less ludicrous next time, won't you?

Posted by: greyparrot | November 7, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

No, what's weird is the announcement (or leak) of the offer before the acceptance was final. Since Obama's campaign was absolutely leakproof for almost two whole years, it is reliably rumored that Emanuel leaked the offer himself, for reasons of his own.

Posted by: herzliebster | November 8, 2008 12:49 AM | Report abuse

President Obama will surely have a surfeit of yes-men (and yes-women) at every turn. The chief of staff's job is to say no to people when necessary, even the president, and to give due consideration before making a commitment.

Hypothetically, it could have been a moment of political theatre. If he could say no, or even maybe, to the most popular president since Kennedy asking him to do one of the most important jobs in the nation, what chance do lesser mortals have to bring pressure on him? Maybe an old Clinton hand has higher ambitions someday and wanted a moment to consider whether to tie his reputation to this president? Could be even that the president wanted to increase his stature by creating the illusion of almost standing up to the president on this.

Btw, the obvious answer to raydh's question is: Vice-President-elect Leo McGarry. ;)

Posted by: lartfromabove | November 8, 2008 2:19 AM | Report abuse

Maybe it was a trial balloon. How would Rahm Emanuel go over with the pundits and the bloggers? If "tough-minded and centrist, yet fiercely loyal to Obama," give Rahm the green light. If "hyper-partisan jerk with no progressive ideals," hit the reset button and page Tom Daschle. Rahm got the green light.

For a contrasting trial balloon, in which everything went wrong, see RFK Jr. for EPA chief. He might've gone over as an ardent environmentalist and a Kennedy; instead, he's getting slammed as an intellectual lightweight who pushed a false link between vaccines and autism. (And that's the Daily KOS crowd!)

I don't think this is entirely fair to Kennedy, whose environmental career encompasses more than one Rolling Stone article in 2005, nor does it acknowledge that the consensus about the lack of a vaccine-autism link has since grown. But perception is everything, Kennedy is getting no love from left, right or center, and Obama is likely to hit reset and page Mary Nichols.

Posted by: PostObserver | November 8, 2008 8:26 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see RFK get the environmental position. He deserves it.

Posted by: itsagreatday1 | November 8, 2008 9:25 PM | Report abuse

A done deal? Did you see the coverage about Obama having allegedly written his inaugural address? I can just hear the gleeful cries of "Arrogance!" if it leaked that he had tapped his chief of staff.

You are clearly forgetting that it is only the current administration that thinks thoughtful consideration is a sign of weakness. And they just lost.

Posted by: MikeChicago1 | November 10, 2008 11:55 AM | Report abuse

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