Monday, October 23, 2006

Riffing on Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Emanuel appeared on NPR a couple of weeks ago and got testy with Steve Inskeep--not an easy thing to do in itself (picking a fight with Inskeep, I mean). I've rarely heard an interview, especially with a person whose ideas or work I've been sympathetic to, and come away with such a strong feeling that the person is an asshole. After reading this profile in the Washpot, I have a greater (grudging) appreciation for him. (The NPR-Inskeep piece opened with Emanuel complaining how little sleep he was operating on; I guess he's earned the right to complain. The Washpot quotes Paul Begala comparing Emanuel's work ethic to that of LBJ, who per Begala used to wind up many campaigns in a hospital bed.)

I found the Washpot piece via Neil @ Ezra Klein's place; I enjoyed his discussion of the Democratic leadership in the House. The GOP is trying to demonize Nancy Pelosi as Hillary-gone-to-San Francisco; reportedly more Republicans than Democrats nationwide now know Pelosi's name. I think Pelosi is sharp as hell, and putting Emanuel at the DCCC was one of her best moves to date. I'm less than 100% ecstatic at the thought of Democratic subpoena power, just because I see every reason to think that Bush and Cheney will treat subpoenas as toilet paper. But don't get me wrong: I want the subpoenas sent and the hearings held; I sure would like to see that drama played out.

Read Werewolf Neil's comments on Steny Hoyer vs. Jack Murtha for majority leader. Jack Murtha has been great for the party, but I did not realize he has a 0 rating from NARAL.

I've been struggling for two months to write something coherent about the tensions in the Democratic Party that were on display in the primary contest between Ned Lamont and Joe Lieberman. Suffice it to say that I was all in favor of an insurgent Democratic campaign to beat Lieberman--though that CT Senate race is a source of worry right now; it really looks like Lamont peaked in August, and some of his foot soldiers had regular jobs or law-school classes to return to after Labor Day.

What grated on me most about Lieberman and his supporters in A-list Washington society, was an intimation that Lieberman's seniority should protect him, absolutely and unconditionally, from primary challenges. You'd think politicians would accept having to run for election as a routine hazard of democracy, but it seemed to me that Lieberman resented having to face the voters. Joe'd prefer to purchase them wholesale via Don Imus and Tim Russert. Rahm Emanuel was one of those in the party leadership who wanted to cushion Lieberman and shoot down Ned Lamont; at the time I was angry at Emanuel's meddling. (Emanuel successfully snuffed a handful of other primary challenges this year, including Paul Hackett in Ohio, a hero of the Left Blogosphere like Ned Lamont.)

Anyway, after reading the Post, I can't charge Emanuel with being a chardonnay-sipping Georgetown idler, or of shrinking from contact with voters and donors, of not doing the hard work of party politics. It's just possible he knows his business better than I know his business. Pelosi is the leader of the party at the moment, the unifying force. Emanuel is not a unifying personality, but he's Pelosi's guy, and so, in my small way, am I. It's humbling, this party discipline, putting one's trust in the brusque asshole from Chicago, embracing someone who's anti-choice like Jack Murtha.

I have no predictions for November 7th--I just hope the Democrats aren't overconfident. All these polls are great that show trouble for Republicans in the generalized aggregate abstract. But that anti-Bush zeitgeist has to filter down and convert into votes for Jim Webb, for Ted Strickland, for Heath Shuler, etc. The filtering-down doesn't happen automatically.

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