Let Rahm off the hook on that UAW expletive
I suspect I am slightly more of a gut pro-labor guy than is Rahm Emanuel, the White House Chief of Staff. But I think the media attention to Emanuel’s use of his favorite expletive with reference to the United Auto Workers union is an unfair distraction -- and ignores the fact that he uses that word promiscuously about almost everyone.
The revelation comes in the new book, "Overhaul," by Steve Rattner, the New York investment banker who was a chief architect of the auto bailout. I'm looking forward to reading it. Emanuel's little outburst is a tiny piece of a much larger narrative.
The media focus on this tidbit is frustrating for at least three reasons. First, with a few honorable exceptions, opponents of the auto bailout are doing everything they can to evade the simple fact that it worked far better than any of them predicted. They'll do almost anything to keep the focus off this central storyline. This is just another instance of the politics of distraction.
Second, I happen to be one of an extremely small number of commentators who thought the bailout was a good idea from the beginning. Letting GM and Chrysler fail, I thought, would be hugely damaging and irreversible. There is a place for government to try to save parts of our manufacturing sector during this terrifyingly comprehensive economic downturn. I always thought there was a way the government could do this right, and in this case, that's what it's done.
Third, because of my interest, I followed the bailout very closely, and Emanuel was one of its leading supporters. It doesn't surprise me in the least that during difficult negotiations, he swore at the UAW. I suspect he swore at a lot of other people, too. That's why the UAW president, Bob King, responded to the story about Emanuel’s expletive-deleted moment by saying: "The hard work of this president, Rahm Emanuel and the administration literally saved the auto industry."
Incidentally, Emanuel is well-known as a source to many columnists, and, yes, I'm one of them. But I don’t write this out of any desire to cultivate him as a source. I am quite confident I'll keep hearing from him, if only when he wants to throw his favorite expletive at me when I’ve written something he doesn't like. It's happened.
Raymond Chandler, the great American mystery writer, offered the world a collection of short stories called Trouble Is My Business. That could well be the title of some future biography of Rahm Emanuel. I'm sure he will get into trouble again for his mouth, and he may well deserve the grief he gets when it happens. But I don’t think he deserves the hit this time.
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