James Forsyth James Forsyth

The real number two at the White House

The Obama campaign was a no-drama operation. Partly this was a matter of the candidate’s temperament but it was also to create a contrast first with the drama-filled Clinton campaign that suffered from a surfeit of egos and then with the McCain campaign whose principal seemed, at times, to be almost addicted to the dramatic gesture. But the decision to bring in some of the most colourful figures in the Democratic Party into the administration has, though, rather changed things. 

Take the hyper-competitive Rahm Emanuel, the former Clinton White House staffer—Josh Lyman in the West Wing is based on him—turned Congressman, who Obama drafted in to be his chief of staff. Ryan Lizza’s New Yorker profile of him paints a brilliant portrait of him. This response by Emauel (warning: profanity ahead) about why Paul Krugman’s critique of the stimulus, that Obama conceded too much to Senate centrists, is wrong rather sums up the Chief of Staff:

“Write a fucking column on how to seat the son of a bitch. I would be fascinated with that column. O.K.?” Emanuel stood up theatrically and gestured toward his seat with open palms. “Anytime they want, they can have it,” he said of those who are critical of his legislative strategies. “I give them my chair.”

Emanuel has the experience and the skill-set that you want in a White House Chief of Staff. Whether he has the temperament remains to be seen. His displays of rage do seem to be designed to serve a purpose, though. His mood will have been improved today by the internal debate that  the Republicans are having over the stimulus coming out

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