Excuse me, but where's the buck stop?
Evidently in the Obama era, it stops with Rahm Emanuel -- anywhere but with President Barack Obama.
That's because Democrats are having a terrible time figuring out what they do if the problem really is the President. He's got three more years, then a re-election, so if this far out he's the one gumming up governing and leading, the Democrats are in for it.
This all began recently when Edward Luce wrote a column in the Financial Times saying that, not only does Obama need to enlist a larger group of advisers, but before corralling them, Rahm Emanuel, his chief of staff, has to go. Then, because it fits the navel gazing narrative of the Concerned Crowd, it's repeated over and over again, with other Smart People chiming in that something was wrong in the Inner Obama, so that now everyone's chattering. Some of the points well made, but the Can Rahm Crowd is still missing the nut of it.
That Mr. Emanuel's latest defender is John Sununu isn't going to change anyone's mind.
Enter Dana Milbank, the wisecracking, klieg light obsessed Washington Post op-ed columnist who got everyone in an uproar yesterday over two little sentences.
Let us now praise Rahm Emanuel.
Stenographer! Channeling Rahm! How dare he betray the core of the Obama Choir, Gibby, Axe and Val!
But at least Milbank is doing his job, bringing hits to the Washington Post, because no one could resist taking a big bite at such bait written by someone everyone loves to hate.
I wasn't going to touch this one because it all seemed so silly election season obvious.
But then Les Gelb went at again the other day on the Daily Beast, a follow up to his "Replace Rahm" starter piece, when he also asked for a scrambling of the deck chairs, not to mention the firing of Gen. Jim Jones (though it's hard to argue with his suggestion to dump Larry Summers, who should never have been hired in the first place). Gelb asserting that Rahm Emanuel has used Dana Milbank, who's denying he talked to Emanuel for his piece, to strike at Gelb.
And maybe Rahm is actually out the door or perhaps someone is opening it for him and pushing him out, something that concerns me not in the least. However, what all this says about Pres. Obama is troubling.
This is all very interesting for people who can't afford or won't deal with the obvious. The people who are trying furtively to figure out what's gone so terribly wrong with Obama in the first year, including on foreign policy which has stalled in several arenas, but particularly as some see Obama's Afghanistan strategy as a real policy blunder (though, as I've written before, I do not agree). Working mightily on their inner guru to make sure the proper pressure is brought to bear, Rahm Emanuel simply must be exposed for who he really is. Operation Pressure the President meant to make it too hot for Rahm to stay. After all, it's all his fault.
The alternative is just too terrible to consider.
But I assure you people outside Washington, D.C. have never heard of or care one whit about some guy chosen by Pres. Obama to be his chief of staff. To normal, average Americans watching this colossally incompetent circus go 'round and 'round in circles, it's about Obama, and it will be even if Rahm Emanuel gets axed.
Chief of staffs are notoriously strong and often unpopular. See Don Regan v. Nancy Reagan. Alexander Haig, who recently died, was chief of staff to Nixon, managing also to get out unscathed from Watergate, reportedly also responsible for convincing Nixon to resign. Haig was also chief of staff for Ford at the start, replaced eventually by Donald Rumsfeld. Jim Baker and his iron hand, velvet tongue, an Arabist without getting caught, and the man who maneuvered the 2000 post-election fight and gave Democrats a collective ulcer some of us are still nursing. But what of the presidents they served?
Barack Obama's first year didn't come off very well. The electorate is restless. Independents have buyer's remorse. Republicans are out for blood. There's got to be a fix, a fall guy. It can't be the President, because after all we've got him for 3 more years, plus a re-election.
But what if the problem isn't Rahm?
It's the question most Democrats can't, won't or refuse to face, because they can't do anything about the answer. Because if they pretend it's all about Rahm, hoping for his ouster, at least Democrats might get a re-set. With Gibby, Axe, Val and now even Dave still around, it's better than nothing.
Taylor Marsh is a political analyst out of Washington, D.C.
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