Mere Facts Cannot Stop the Hero Worship Machine

You really can never underestimate the ability of power-worshipping Beltway journalists to fabricate out of whole cloth an entire storyline just to make them feel close to Serious People they perceive to be Important. As an example, see this story on Rahm Emanuel in GQ by Ryan Lizza - a person working hard to carve out his own slice of American history as a "reporter" more infatuated with hero worship than any of his predecessors:

Rahm explains that both Diane Farrell, the challenger to Republican Chris Shays in Connecticut, and Ron Klein, the challenger to Clay Shaw here in Florida, have moved "five points on Iraq." "The most motivated voters are Iraq voters," he tells his fellow congressmen. "You get a twofer: One is the issue of Iraq, and two is that a lot of their guys have made statements supporting Bush. So you also get the rubber stamp. I want to finish this campaign zeroed in on Iraq. They say terrorism, we say Iraq. They say stay the course, we say change."

Ah yes, Rahm was leading the fight for Democrats to make Iraq a major issue in the campaign, right? What a genius - except for those little things called "facts" which are ignored because they might get in the way of Lizza's lips reaching Emanuel's ass. Those facts would show that as recently as less than a year ago, Emanuel was demanding Democratic candidates go totally silent on the war. You can see here, here and here for a little review of these facts - as reported widely by the media at the time.

But, no - the hero creation machine must grind on, whether it means laying waste to actual, serious journalism or facts.

Why is any of this important? Because to understand the past is to understand the present - and a distortion of what actually happened in the election is a way to ignore what voters actually wanted.

By any objective analysis, Rahm Emanuel was the beneficiary of being in the right place at the right time. His targeting and rejection of the 50-state strategy proved to be a fairly horrific failure - many of his most highly-touted candidates lost, and he didn't put resources into some of the races that ended up being the closest Democratic losses in the country. Put another way, Democrats won in spite of Rahm's targeting and - as this blog post shows - also in spite of his critical early advice on the issue that swung the election. I mean, this is a guy who was the architect of NAFTA and yet is now taking credit for an election where Democratic candidates' opposition to NAFTA provided the margin of the new congressional majority.

Yes, Rahm raised a lot of money. But his real "success" was happening to be chairman of the DCCC at the same time the Republican Party was ravaged with corruption scandals, and plagued by a high-profile colleague who made gay sexual advances on young boys. The Democratic Party not winning the election under the circumstances would have made Rahm into the political equivalent of Bill Buckner.

But make no mistake about it - had Bill Buckner fielded that routine grounder and made the out in Game 6 in 1986, that moment would not have gone down as some unbelievable and overachieving play, it would have gone down as the absolute minimum someone should have done in that situation. And had Buckner batted .185 and made other errors throughout the rest of the series, he would not have been handed the MVP had he only successfully fielded that routine ground ball.

Similarly, that Rahm happened to be head of the DCCC in 2006 doesn't make him the MVP of the 2006 election (or, as Lizza froths, the Kingmaker of the Democratic Party) - and it certainly doesn't negate the simple truth that this man did much within his power to lose the election, thanks to his generally unprincipled hackishness on most major issues including, of course, war and peace. No matter how much the Ryan Lizzas of the world inevitably translate their own personal need to feel loved by Serious People, the very clear facts show that this election was not some validation of Rahm Emanuel, his lack of ideology, or his self-serving Clintonite comrades now pathetically trying to retain their relevance. It was exactly the opposite - a rejection of those factors, because Democrats won in spite of them.