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It's Emanuel who's dangerous to the Obama presidency

By Katrina vanden Heuvel

With an inane flourish of rhetoric, Washington is split between Friends of Rahm and Friends of Barack. “Arguably,” The Post’s Dana Milbank wrote two weeks ago, “Emanuel is the only person keeping Obama from becoming Jimmy Carter.” Judging from the maelstrom of columns, criticism, and comments Milbank unleashed (and from The Post’s front-page story Tuesday that heralded Emanuel as the White House’s “voice of reason”), the operative word in Milbank’s Carter comparison is “arguably.” Anointing Emanuel as the man who’s keeping Obama from driving the country straight into 1978, though, is a bit far-fetched.

Doing so ignores the fact that the damage done to the Obama presidency is largely the fault of the fractious and ineffectual 111th Congress. As loud as the Post portrays him to be (“the town's leading purveyor of four-letter words”), not even Emanuel can bring the perpetually filibustered Senate back to simple-majority sanity. What’s more, it’s this Congress that the White House’s “voice of reason” put together when he chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. As Dan Froomkin writes on The Huffington Post, Emanuel got “a bunch of conserva-Dems elected in purple states in 2006, winning the party control of the House while at the same time crippling its progressive agenda. This is what Emanuel is all about. For him, victory is everything -- even if you have to give up your core values to win, and even if you could have won while sticking to them.”

The “should have listened to Rahm” argument also presumes an ignorant and out-of-touch president, an executive who spends too much time toying with pie-in-the-sky idealism and not enough with reality. But it is Emanuel, it would seem, who is wedded to the idea that government works in one specific way and that, by god, that’s how things will be done. He is a product of his environment -- that is, the contentious House of Representatives of the 2000s. His insistence on maintaining business as usual, achieved by always tacking center, is to the detriment, not the benefit, of Obama’s agenda, which recognizes that Americans are tired of business as usual and (perhaps idealistically) hope that there is another, more progressive, way to get things done in Washington.

Americans, though far from uniform agreement on any of the president’s policies, are, in fact, tired of do-nothing cynicism from their government. It is Emanuel’s purple centrism that is dangerous to Obama’s presidency.

By Katrina vanden Heuvel  | March 4, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  vanden Heuvel  | Tags:  Katrina vanden Heuvel  
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Saved !!!!!!!!!
Finally....!!!! You have found a Responsible for Obama's Insufficciency....!!!!!

Posted by: jacquesbr69 | March 4, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

Amen! Emanuel is indeed the person who gave us the likes of Heath Shuler, members of Congress who might as well formally announce they really are Republicans.

Posted by: Terkelguy | March 4, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Sadly, Rahm just pointed out that he does not like working for a schvartze. It breaks his heart that he is down the food chain from this president.

Posted by: rich15 | March 4, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

It is rare, indeed, to see the opinion page contributors of The Post having as ferocious a food fight as we now see between Milbank, Broder and vanden Heuvel. It ill becomes them, and doesn't serve the readers.

Posted by: lrubin2 | March 4, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the author that Rahm is bad news. But the real problem in this Dem's view is Barack Obama. This pro-Wall Street, pro-HMO narcissist's presidency is not salvageable.

Apparently I am not alone among Democrats as I understand that an African-American Democratic woman, campaigning for Obama's impeachment or resignation, Kesha Rogers, won the Dem nomination in Texas' CD 22 on Tuesday.

Posted by: bjerryberg | March 4, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I thought Emanuel was a poor choice from the beginning.... hell, I voted for Obama because the Jerusalem Post hated him!!

I thought - AT LAST! - someone in Washington who is resisting these demons.

When he appointed Rahm as his first deed - I realized it was business as usual.

Washington will remain Tel Aviv West until the American people revolt and rethink the revisionist history of WWII. The bad guys won - and went on to occupy another country - Palestine.

Posted by: cwardnm | March 4, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse


I had the chance to vote for a return to the Clinton Administration in the primaries, AND I VOTED AGAINST IT!

Posted by: uh_huhh | March 4, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Oh boy, what a bunch of innane assumptions.
-- America voted for a "Progressive Agenda" and the idiot Democrats in the House are in its way?
-- Congress is to blame for all the failures of the OB Admin? With an overwhelming majority of Dems and a cutthroat speaker who Rahmed through what could be gotten throught with vaseline?
-- Rahm constructed that Congress? He actually constructed that Congress piece by piece?


This is border-line Stupid. No, excuse, it is not border-line. We have a President, who pontificated in cafes, who believed his Socialist rhetoric, who thought he was elected to change America, not spiritually but politically red. And he cannot understand what is going on, the opposition because he is an ideologue.

Blaming it on admitted polarization nice. I don't believe it. Blame it on the Preident.

Posted by: wjc1va | March 4, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Leave it to Vanden Heuvel...a true neo-marxist in every literal sense of the trot out the "all or nothing" argument. Her position is that ideological purity must NEVER be sacrificed and it's better to have a tiny tiny rump Party that's ideologically pure, than majority control where one must (shudder) COMPROMISE with eeevil Centrists.

Oh, if only VH gets her way. I'd love to see 30 years of a tiny Dem Party containing nothing but Pelosis, Franks, and Waxmans. Talk about a slam dunk for conservatives!!

Posted by: JohnR22 | March 4, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

As usual, the author is living in a dream world. She blames the current dysfunction on Congress. She ignores the fact that the President has abdicated all responsibility to provide leadership to Congress. Not only has he allowed Pelosi and friends to run rampant, he has joined in their factual untruths and efforts to mislead and manipulate the voters. As to her comment that Rahm E. designed the present Congress, she ignores the fact that his planning is the only reason the Democrat's even have a chance at passing this flawed bill. In an odd way, it is comforting that Ms. Vanden Heuvel is consistent in her ability to ignore reality in order to further her unreasoning agenda. Her lack of intellectual honor and honesty, however, is as disturbing and disgusting as ever. Its people like her that are destroying the Party. While this is comfortable from a policy standpoint, it is not good for the nation.

Posted by: SeekingRationalThought | March 4, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Katrina, how do you continue to have a job? Or put another way, who pays to read this junk? Progressives, a 10% block of the electorate, think that they control the debate via their "advanced" degrees, their circle of friends, their simple arrogance. In fact, they are the proverbial scientist class; long on technical education, woefully short on common sense. Katrina, progressive ne socialist/communist platforms and ideologies have failed the world over. You live, eat, sleep, and (regrettably) write in a country that operates on an entirely different basis, and allows you the freedom to spew your tripe. But really, nobody with a brain cares what you say Katrina. Nobody.....

Posted by: subframer | March 4, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Katerina! My favorite recreation is watch Liberals fight Liberals regarding who is illiberal! keep up the good work at The Nation

Posted by: bmarks56 | March 4, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Washington will remain Tel Aviv West until the American people revolt and rethink the revisionist history of WWII. The bad guys won - and went on to occupy another country - Palestine.

Posted by: cwardnm

Here you go. NAZIs for Obama.

Posted by: pihto999 | March 4, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Katrina is just another whacked out lefty that is so blind that she cant see that her ilk is not even close to having the majority opinion of the Dems much less the USA.

This entire op/ed is an ignorant rant that can be disposed of sentence by sentence. For the sake of time lets look at just one of her embarrassingly idiotic statements.

Katrina blames Rohm for all of the moderate Dems that were elected in 2006 and 2008. Errrr Katrina, did it ever occur to you that had Rohm not led the charge to win these purple districts Pelosi might not be speaker and maybe the Dem majority would have been very slim? Are you really that shortsighted Katrina?

This piece of crap article is so asinine it is laughable.

Posted by: iam7545 | March 4, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Hey numb nuts (Terkelguy);

Did you ever stop to think the only reason you dems have a majority in the House and, arguably any shot at jamming through this monstrosity of a gaggled bill is because Rombo got you those DINO's? Because, let's face it genius, those DINO's are the only thing holding your precious little majority right now - a San Franny Socialist wouldn't stand a chance in many of the purple districts. God are stupid!

Posted by: eddys225 | March 4, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Katrina's diatribes always have a guaranteed following among the parasitic class of academics who spout Marxism while leeching off of public revenues collected from our quasi-capitalist economy. If her cohort of aging hippies ever had to genuinely support themselves, they would be found in droves under highway overpasses. We have the luxury of tolerating such ingrates like Katrina et al until Lord Obama's bills are due. Then watch out.

Posted by: AdamSmith2 | March 4, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Yes Obama, listen to this left-wing nutjob.
As the Country remains and perhaps is even moving Right, you should move left. Brilliant. Just frickin' brilliant.

Posted by: websterr1 | March 4, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Give is a rest, Katrina. Milbank is correct. Regardless of what you what like to believe, you and your neo-Marxist pals are a very small minority in this country, and the Dems wouldn't be in power if people like Rahm hadn't recruited all of those centrist Dems you hate so much. Unfortunately for you, and fortunately for the rest of us, Obama isn't listening to Rahm's advice to govern from the center, and he is doing a bang-up job of driving the Dems right back out of power. Good riddance - this country will NEVER willingly submit to your agenda.

Posted by: anna_78750 | March 4, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse


Katrina is more proof that "progressive" is nothing more than a euphemism for the neo-comms who have hijacked the Democrat Party, making it progressively worse. "Socialism or death" isn't a big selling point with the American people.

Not to say neo-cons like Juan McAmnesty and his open borders globalism, one-sided "free" trade agreements, confiscatory cap and trade taxes based on the global warming hoax, amnesty and "free" healthcare for 30+ MILLION illegal aliens, and "wars, many more wars," and "I'm gonna draft ya, ya little jerk" destroying our precious young people to protect multi-national corporations who pay no taxes here, is any better.

Is there no point where the word TREASON should be used to describe what these people are doing to this country? Is Parsin' Clinton available for definitions?

Posted by: IowaPatN | March 4, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe I have anything good to say about Rahm "Don't let a good crisis go to waste Emanuel" but he seems to be the only sane person offering sound advice in the White House. We now know that its Obama that is insisting on spending a billion dollars for circus trials in NYC for the murdering terrorist that planned 9/11. Its Obama that is insisting on a massive corrupt government takeover of the healthcare system that will cost trillions and trillion and bankrupt our nation. Its Obama that's is ignoring the economy and jobs even though Rahm is telling him that's where he should be focused, not the corrupt healthcare bill. Thanks to Rahm Emanuel we now know Obama has had solid advice that he has rejected in favor of his own extreme radical left wing ideology and agenda!

Posted by: valwayne | March 4, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

"Americans are tired of business as usual and (perhaps idealistically) hope that there is another, more progressive, way to get things done in Washington."

Where do you guys continue to find these progressive juggernauts? AMERICA IS NOT PROGRESSIVE! The President is smart enough to understand that and so are the congressional members not in districts completely devoid of reason. I understand the thinking of the lunatic fringe, see progressive.... similar to Lenin's "useful idiots" they continue to hammer the propaganda of "Americans want change" and that is the reason the Presidents numbers are low, why Scott Brown was elected, etc, etc. The fact remains, America will never, ever move so far to the left fringe so as to adopt "progressive" ideals.
The President is America's version of Ahnold "The Govenator" and Jesse "The Body" Ventura. He won the most voted on American Idol fantasy since Kennedy...his lack of leadership and his year wasted proves....well, he is not the smartest man in the room, in fact, he may not even be in the top ten.

Posted by: dartagnansblade | March 4, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Oh please, please, please keep thinking this way until November 2010! Please remember that most Americans are already dreaming about the day they get to elect more Democrats to the House and Senate that are more progressive than those in office now. Pass a bill giving every American a 4,000 square foot home, a $100,000 income, two cars, an an annual vacation to Hawaii! We need this kind of thinking if we are going to set the record straight in November.

It is very important for all liberals to remember that true utopia can only be achieved if we all turn out and vote on November 3rd, 2010!!!!

Posted by: MrHanky2012 | March 4, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

I'd say it was People's Republic Of Berkeley gone wild, that is the problem. On both sides of the aisle. There are more Democrats and Republicans both, not to mention independents, that DO NOT share a totally idealogical outlook, than there are true believbers of left or right. We are not well represented (to say the least) in Congress, but that is Congress's own evolutionary pressure - rigging districts in the House, running closed and increasingly polarized primaries, re-electing extremists of both stripes while imperilling their more thoughtful brothers and sisters - that produced all this, not the Chief of Staff. The People just have to get mad enough to do something about this.

And that should be a scary thought for all of us. Maybe Rahm can get some of our issues addressed without a near-revolutionary setting comming about. I hope so.

Posted by: johnwerneken1 | March 4, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

I wholeheartedly concur, with one of my fellow Commenters. These people, and ESPECIALLY our very own BOY KING, think that THE BAD GUYS won the Cold War. ("Oh, you Neo Cons. How dare you question our Patriotism") Remember, DEMOCRATS - Jim McDermott, and some other Idiot Democrat, who's name escapes me, actually went to IRAQ, to be HUMAN SHIELDS for SADDAM. Remember?
And as far as this POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL goes....I will PAY, to get this Broad LA*D. Her and DOWD. And I think that it should be a skinny Black guy. He might wanna have some MAN BOOBS, too. And we're gonna need him to TALK, throughout the whole Love thing. Tell them that he wants to be PERFECTLY CLEAR, or something. I don't know. All I DO know, is that they need to play a good old fashioned game of HIDE THE SALAMI.

Posted by: GoomyGommy | March 5, 2010 6:46 AM | Report abuse

Drivel! Obama started too far Left and has yet to correct it. The November results are liukely too help alot.

Posted by: balataf | March 6, 2010 6:45 AM | Report abuse

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