It seems that certain people from the left and right are fretting over the selection of Rahm Emanuel to be President-Elect Obama’s chief of staff. Mr. Emanuel has a reputation for being able to make deals, push legislation through, and be a hard-nosed driver for achieving goals. The concerns from the polar extremes come down to this:
- From the Left: Many of the left-wingers who thought that Mr. Obama would usher in a pie-in-the-sky liberal utopia were sorely mistaken. Mr. Emanuel will make comprimises in order to get legislation passed (this opposed to standing by your principles and having your legislation go down in flames; see Clinton’s 1993 health care failure). For those that want “change” that will actually happen, this is a good thing.
- From the Right: Most from this squad keep seeming to underestimate Mr. Obama’s sheer toughness (one exception was George Will, who referred to Mr. Obama as “tempered steel under the sleek suits”). By selecting Emanuel, Mr. Obama sent an obvious signal that he wants to get things done by any means necessary. The right’s complaining of Mr. Emanuel is really about realizing that Mr. Obama does not intend to be a milquetoast patsy (see Dukakis, Kerry, etc). Sour grapes.
Those that study presidential history will remember that another effective president who was popular with the people and seen as a nice guy, Ronald Reagan, also had a very tough deal-maker, James Baker, as his chief of staff.