The fable of Emanuel the Great
(The Washington Post) -- By David S. Broder --
In the space of 10 days, thanks in no small part to my own newspaper, the president of the United States has been portrayed as a weakling and a chronic screw-up who is wrecking his administration despite everything that his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, can do to make things right. This remarkable fiction began unfolding on Feb. 21 in the Sunday column of my friend Dana Milbank, who wrote that "Obama's first year fell apart in large part because he didn't follow his chief of staff's advice on crucial matters. Arguably, Emanuel is the only person keeping Obama from becoming Jimmy Carter," i.e., a one-term failure.
A week later, presumably the same anonymous sources persuaded Milbank to pronounce that Obama "too often plays the 98-pound weakling; he gets sand kicked in his face and responds with moot-court zingers."
And on Tuesday, The Post led the paper with a purported news story by Jason Horowitz saying that a president with Obama's "detached, professorial manner" needed "a political enforcer" like Emanuel to have a chance of succeeding, "because he [Emanuel] possessed a unique understanding of the legislative mind." Unfortunately, the story said, "influential Democrats are -- in unusually frank terms -- blaming Obama and his closest campaign aides for not listening to Emanuel." It sounded, for all the world, like the kind of orchestrated leaks that often precede a forced resignation in Washington.
Except that the chief of staff doesn't usually force the president out. When George H.W. Bush had had enough of John H. Sununu, of course it was Sununu who walked. Maybe the sources on these stories think Obama is the one who should leave...
None of this would rise above the level of petty Washington gossip except that some of Emanuel's friends are so eager to exonerate him that they are threatening to undermine the president. Milbank, presumably reflecting what he hears, calls Obama "airy and idealistic" and says he readily succumbs to "bullying" from Republicans and Democrats alike. I hope the mullahs in Iran don't believe this.
From too many years of covering politics, I have come to believe as Axiom One that the absolute worst advice politicians ever receive comes from journalists who fancy themselves great campaign strategists.
Milbank now is urging Obama to emulate Gordon Brown, who is probably just weeks away from being voted out as Britain's prime minister, and start bullying people himself...MORE...LINK
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