Saturday, November 8, 2008

O Rahm, O Rahm, Emanuel

I'm pretty sure my title is not close to the first mention of that particular quip, but I'm finally feeling a bit of drain after the long campaign, so my creative powers, such as they are, are at the bottom of the tank.

I've already read far more than I want to about Obama's choice of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff. It may be more prevalent here because of the Chicago connection, but there seem to be a lot of non-Midwest bloggers who have weighed in. I'm not going to seek out a whole bunch of links; the reader can easily find opinions from both sides, from the folks who think that Emanuel's bulldog tenacity and pragmatism will complement the coolness of Obama to those who think that the choice demonstrates that Obama is not the kindly bridge-builder he purports to be.

Here's the thing: Could we give it a rest? I know there are a lot of blog editors that are empty, now that we can't weigh in on every detail of Palin's wardrobe, Biden's gaffes, McCain's heroism, and Obama's placidity. The natural conflict of the campaign has given way to the far less fascinating nuts and bolts of governing, and the amateur sportswriter that lies within many commentators is finding itself with very little to say. So we who comment, whether we're sitting in Mom's basement or we have Cabinet members in our Rolodexes, are feeling a loss, and we're determined to find conflict in anything that arises.

We've spent endless hours parsing the new McCain TV ads, Michelle's new dress, Palin's latest verbal misstep, and we're pretty well addicted to it. So, even though the drama is over, we're determined to manufacture controversy. Rahm Emanuel, even if you never heard his name before a couple of days ago, needs to be placed in the spectrum of opinion, immediately, NOW. Will he help or hurt Obama? Will he work well with his former colleagues in Congress, or will his nettlesome personality undercut Obama's initiatives?

Here's the thing - we don't know yet. We have no way of determining how the two men will work together, whether Emanuel's primary role will be one of policy or one of getting things done. We can't know yet how Emanuel will adapt himself to the role, which may end up being the most important factor in his success.

To many people, Colin Powell proved to be a disappointment as Secretary of State. They wanted him to fit within their concept of him as a powerful, dynamic leader. Instead, they got someone who subsumed himself to what proved to be a far inferior person.

But this was actually predictable. Powell was a strong man, within the context of being a general. But. as a military man, he prizes obedience as one of the great virtues. Bush was his boss, and his job, as he saw it, was to execute within the boundaries laid down by his boss. You can argue that this approach was wrong for a Cabinet position, that Powell had a responsibility to the people to be more forthcoming, or to resign if that wasn't possible, but that's not the way he saw it.

And we don't know how Emanuel will see his role, and thus, what kind of job he will do. So let's go out, get the leaves raked, spend some time with the family, get the sweaters out of storage, split a half cord of wood, and try not to pick at every single thing in hopes of being the first to grasp the essence of the Obama presidency. There's plenty of time for that, after he actually becomes president.

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