Friday, November 07, 2008
Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff
Obama is out of the gate and running. Everyone seems taken aback at the alacrity with which his organization is moving. Less than 48 hours after his (our) historic victory in the general election, big decisions are being announced in rapid-fire succession.
Well, that's all to the good. The crises being faced by this country require immediate response, and Obama is not dithering.
Unfortunately, I find his first and most important personnel decision to be appalling: Congressman Rahm Emanuel is to be the chief of staff.
White House Chief of Staff is a very powerful position. The WHCS controls the flow of information into and out of the White House. The WHCS is the gateway to the President, determining who gets in to the Oval Office and who gets escorted to the exit.
From a practical standpoint this is a good choice for Obama. He and Emanuel are personal friends, both coming from Illinois. Emanuel "made his bones" working for the Clinton administration as a senior advisor from 1993 to 1998. He's been in Congress, representing Illinois' 5th Congressional district since 2002. By all accounts, he is a hard-nosed individual and by many more, he's a son of a bitch. Emanuel knows the ins and outs of how things work in the halls of Congress and so will be a huge asset to Obama when it comes to getting his agenda passed. No problems with any of that.
Emanuel is less of an idealist and more of a pragmatist when it comes to left-versus-right politics. While that doesn't endear him to me, I can live with that.
The reason Emanuel's selection troubles me is because of what it means in terms of US policy toward the Israel-Palestine issue and toward the Muslim world, generally. Emanuel supported the illegal invasion of Iraq; is by all evidence, fanatic in his support of Israel (he went so far as to join the Israeli army as a young man, in spite of being a citizen of the United States); and is harsh in his rhetoric toward the oppressed Palestinians.
Any hopes I have may have harbored that an Obama administration might take a more equitable position in addressing the grotesque Israeli occupation of Palestine and the criminal oppression being perpetrated on Palestinians may not have died completely, but they're on life support.
I hearken back to a recent conversation I had with a Palestinian man and have to agree with the sober assessment he uttered about the next President of the United States: there ain't a lick of difference between Obama and McCain when it comes to Israel-Palestine. The Emanuel selection shows that Obama isn't going to ruffle any feathers over at AIPAC.
I'm still hopeful about an Obama administration being more equitable and just in its relationship to the world outside our borders. But Obama's selection of Rahm Emanuel as his most important advisor points up the fact that there is still a dire need for social activism and dissension.