According to some child psychologists, there is a demonstrable tendency among children who have been victimized by bullies to progress to becoming aggressors themselves. Another symptom associated with bullies is a pronounced tendency for such persons to also be braggarts. It does make you wonder. What exactly happened on the playground at recess when Rahm Emanuel was growing up?
When it was announced that Bill Daley was leaving the position of White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel came to the defense of his successor at the White House. Emanuel was quoted as saying, “Historically, the modern Chief of Staff is an 18 month job. It is a grinding job. It’s exciting! But basically every problem, before it gets to the Oval Office sits at that desk. So that’s the historic norm. I lasted past the 18 months. Bill didn’t.”
If this was an attempt to defend Daley’s service, why toss in a gratuitous insult?
Like many of his utterances, Emanuel’s statement was a mixture of truths and falsehoods. Emanuel could not resist noting that his tenure was longer than that of Daley. Of course, Emanuel elided past the fact that the average term for White House Chiefs of Staff is actually two and a half years — and he, himself, did not match that length of service. When Emanuel choreographed his own lavish retirement ceremony at the White House, not a word was said about the persistent rumors that he was being outfitted to wear the jacket for the anticipated loss of the Democratic majority in the US House of Representatives. The polling data was clear for months. The sudden decision of Chicago’s longest serving mayor, Richard M. Daley, to retire provided Emanuel with a golden parachute and he jumped before he was pushed out.
Criticism directed against Emanuel had been mounting within the Obama Administration and some questioned whether or not the embattled Chief of Staff was not the source for leaks to various news outlets which praised Emanuel and criticized other presidential advisors. Older Washington observers can recall that Hillary Rodham Clinton supposedly wanted Emanuel out of her husband’s administration, so it is not incredible to think that Emanuel clashed with Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett, polite recent denials notwithstanding. After Emanuel resigned his position in the Clinton White House and returned to Illinois, President Clinton appointed him to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac”) in 2000. In light of the subsequent financial scandals that occurred during his tenure on the corporate board, Emanuel’s service as a “Freddie Mac” director is seldom, if ever, discussed.
As an aside, it is ironic to note that President Obama’s failure to wow the Olympic committee in Copenhagen, Denmark, probably factored into Daley’s eventual retirement. Had the 2016 Summer Olympic Games been awarded to Chicago rather than Rio De Janiero, it is difficult to imagine Daley not standing for reelection for another one or two terms. The Olympics would have been the crowning achievement of his career, but the Chicago delegation was humiliated when the city was eliminated in the first round of the selection process and received the fewest votes of any of the four cities chosen to compete as finalists.
The position of White House Chief of Staff has evolved over time. Prior to the presidency of Harry S. Truman, the men holding the position were usually referred to as presidential secretaries. John R. Steelman, who served President Truman, established the longevity record by holding the position for six years. Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff, Sherman Adams, and George W. Bush’s first Chief of Staff, Andrew Card, both held the position for five years. To date, there has been a revolving door at the Obama White House, which is now ushering in its fourth Chief of Staff in less than three full years. Having three Chiefs of Staff and one Acting Chief of Staff does not suggest stability within the administration.
The much maligned George W. Bush had a total of two Chiefs of Staff in eight years. Bush’s presidency was not noteworthy for domestic tranquility with coordinated large scale terrorist attacks occurring in 2001 and two foreign wars being inaugurated in Afghanistan and Iraq.
I have never understood why Emanuel feels that it is necessary to conflate his accomplishments. During electoral board hearings conducted to determine if Emanuel was eligible to run for mayor, he once quipped that he had polled eighty percent of the vote in his most recent Congressional campaign. Of course, given the nominal opposition that he faced, that was somewhat akin to a member of the Soviet Politburo boasting that he had been elected unanimously. Once again, Emanuel inflated the number of votes. While he had won comfortably against his various under funded Republican and Libertarian opponents, he never secured eighty percent of the vote in any election.
One New Trier classmate of the mayor once told me that he tried to call Emanuel at the White House in 1993 and the switchboard operator put the call through. After attempting to congratulate Emanuel on his role in Clinton’s successful election, the classmate was told by Emanuel to never dial his number again and hung up the telephone.
When I was a constituent residing in Emanuel’s former congressional district, I once sent him a letter requesting his support for a particular piece of legislation. Ordinarily, a Member of Congress responds to constituent correspondence in a polite and perfunctory manner. Emanuel was the exception to the rule. His reply was sarcastic and expressed pride in opposing the legislation that I asked him to consider supporting.
Emanuel had been a one time political ally of Rod Blagojevich, who he succeeded in Congress. His efforts to distance himself from Blagojevich, who he supported in a bizarre prescription drug importation scheme, which failed when the Canadian government objected to subsidizing American patients, sound as sincere as his efforts to claim that there was never any friction between himself and the Obamas.
Daniel J. Kelley is a contributor to “The Chicago Daily Observer.”
image co-schemers on Canadian Drug Importation plot