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A Bad First Sign

Yuval Levin has some thoughts about Obama's choice of Rahm Emanuel as WH Chief of Staff:

The White House chief of staff is not a chief strategist or a chief advocate. He is a manager of people and of process. Above all else, he sets the tone internally, and shapes the president's decision process and the feel of the upper tiers of the administration. Obama is especially in need of someone who will lead him to decisions, because he appears to be intensely averse to making difficult choices--which is the essence of what the president does. His inclination is to step back and conceptualize the choice out of existence, looking reasonable but doing nothing. To overcome this, he will need a chief of staff with a sense of the gravity of the choices the president faces, and one capable of moving the staff to decision, keeping big egos satisfied and calm, and resisting the pressure to be purely reactive to momentary distractions. None of this spells Rahm Emanuel. There is definitely a place for a Rahm Emanuel type of brilliant ruthless shark in a White House staff, but not in the Chief's office.

I think that this is a result of Obama's never having been a real executive, or run anything. He didn't run his campaign--Plouffe and Axelrod did. He was simply the front man. As Yuval notes, it's not a good portent. Get ready for Carter II.

[Update a while later]

Does anyone seriously believe that this pick represents "change" or a "new kind of politics"?

[Mid-afternoon update]

Oh, goodie. More "change" and "new kind of politics." I just heard that John Podesta is leading the selection of the transition team and cabinet.


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II wrote:


Rand you are funny.

I thought Obama didn't like the Jews. I mean, ask Joe the Plumber. So what's he doing with Rahm as Chief?

You keep misinterpreting and underestimating Obama. When are you going to start getting it?

Did you know that sending McCain to PA was one huge head fake.


Rand Simberg wrote:

I thought Obama didn't like the Jews.

Why did you think such a stupid thing? Other than the usual reason, that is?

Tom (Never Anonymous) W. wrote:

II - did you forget the third letter this time? - wrote:

You keep misinterpreting and underestimating Obama. When are you going to start getting it?

And you still can't see that you just bought the equivalent of 100+ acres of Prime Florida real estate. You keep overestimating the man because you interpret his inaction and lack of decision making as something good. The best part is that you are such a rube that you'll gladly buy a NY area bridge from that same nice young man who let you have that great land deal.

All of your snide remarks can't cover the giant "I'm an easy mark" neon sign that follows you around whenever you manage to crawl up from that hole in which you reside.

Leland wrote:

"I'm an easy mark"

I like it. I think Rand should make it the new moniker.

And to answer Rand, no... this is definitely politics as usual. Ignore Obama. Watch what Congress does. What Congress does, Obama will follow. I expect him to be exactly like Bush in this regard. No Vetoes... As long as that is the case, why would Nancy, Frank, or Harry care what Obama wants to do? They make the laws, he just rubber stamps them.

J. Craig Beasley wrote:

Perhaps such judgement in his chief gives a general clue as to how effective he'll be in enforcing his will.

Yep, a big walking rubber-stamp, this guy.

Bill Maron wrote:

First hundred days, health care, taxes and the abortion bill. He's going to strike while the iron is hot and the press is still under his desk. Once it's law, it's easier to keep it and fund it. I'm sure he can buy off the 4-6 Republican Senators he needs to for cloture. He'll leave Iraq and Afganistan until later and China and Russia will do pretty much what they want to without any kick from us. I fear dark days ahead. If he had picked more of a centrist CofS, I would be more sanguine.

Karl Hallowell wrote:

To be honest, I really don't know. My take is that ruthlessness and aggressiveness can be useful traits for a Chief of Staff. So I wouldn't say that Mr. Emanuel is ill-suited for the job based on temperment. We'll just have to see.

What is interesting is that he doesn't seem to have experience relevant to the position. So Obama most likely chose him for other reasons. He apparently was in Illinois non profits about the same time Obama started and deeply connected to Mayor Daley's first election campaign. I'm surfing wikipedia here so some of the details may be grossly wrong. Early history indicates common background. Maybe they even knew each other.

The last thing of interest is that he coauthored with Bruce Reed a book titled "The Plan: Big Ideas for America". A glance indicates that it supports a number of large scale socialist projects (universal citizen service, college access, retirement savings, child's healthcare to name what I saw in the table of contents).

I'm betting that this similarity to Obama's own career, even to a propensity for writing books overflowing with big plans and ideas, is probably why Emanuel has been selected. It strikes me that we have here a potential label for the sort of crowd Obama may be chosing or favoring: "Big Plan".

Carl Pham wrote:

I think the choice is hardly surprising, and Levin's argument based on the absurb premise that Obama is seriously interested in governing, as opposed to further electoral victory.

C'mon, now. Does anyone serious seriously believe Obama is interested in solving problems? If nothing else, he's seen first-hand the folly of solving a problem, in what happened to McCain after he solved Bush's problem in Iraq.

Solving problems doesn't get you re-elected. You need to cherish problems, tend them as carefully as a gardener does his prize pumpkin patch, or like a Secretary of State tending an eternal Palestinian-Israeli peace "process," so that you, Problem Solver In Chief, can be re-elected again and again.

kurt9 wrote:

You guys have the wrong attitude about this. Obama's choice for white house chief of staff suggests that he will be mostly a do-nothing president. This is good, because if you believe that government can do only damage (as I do), then a do-nothing president is the best possible option we could hope for.

II wrote:

Rahm has accepted. He used to want to be a Baryshnikov you know.

This is very bad for the Jews. Ouch.

I was expecting Farrakhan to be appointed. Or Bill Ayers. Or Rashid Khalidi.

Oy Vey.

Bill Maron wrote:


Your parents were expecting you to move out of the basement. Looks like all three of you are disappointed.

Mike Puckett wrote:

I am sorry II,

Obama's first stock market was not down 400 points, it was down nearly 500. My mistake.

Again, enjoy your posioned chalice.

PeterH wrote:

Don't forget the 'fairness doctrine' to silence talk radio, 'network neutrality' putting the brakes on Internet growth, even speech codes. I expect much of what passes through congress the first 100 days to be oriented towards suppressing organized free speech, and otherwise disarming those seeking a restoration of the constitution.

II wrote:
>I was expecting Farrakhan to be appointed. Or Bill Ayers. Or Rashid Khalidi.

Naw. The Obamasia will appoint people of like mind who haven't been so publicly outed yet.

Here's hoping universal citizen service is less popular than the draft during Vietnam.

II wrote:

Oh Puckett,

Looks like you are back after a not so fruitful search for that whitey tape you were wailing about.

Any other predictions, silly boy ?

Bill Maron wrote:

silly boy

I see II is projecting, like all good leftists.

Ill is still 'An Easy Mark' wrote:

Hey, iII,
Nice to see you wait until the early morning hours to finally show back up here. I hope the extra time that you get working the over-night shift at Tico Taco will provide you some extra $$$ for you to give to 'Bama.

I see you wrote the following:

Any other predictions, silly boy ?

I have a few:

1. You will refuse to answer any of my questions posed to you.

2. You will continue to 'post and flee' your trolling nonsense here.

3. You will continually show your ignorance and arrogance by attempting to support BOs non-sensical proposals, appointments, and support of really bad bills.

4. You will lose your Tico Taco job as a result of BOs bad taxation bills, but will still be able to post from the library (because that card is free).

Bob wrote:

Mike Puckett,

Do you still believe the whitey tape exists? Do you know (or have any theories) on why it was not released? Did your source say anything? You made some very firm predictions, and while not every prediction is correct, it would be great to close the book on this one, or at least get some kind of final word. You can guess what I think (that the tape never existed, and that you were misled by your source), but I'm respectfully asking what you think.


II wrote:

Another of Puckett's predictions bites the dust.

Poor man , no astrologer He :


At least have the gumption to come back here and say something about your very certain predictions about the whitey tape.

So. No Bradley effect anymore. Ayers did not work, Wright did not work, Race-baiting did not work. Choosing a non-native English speaker for VP failed.

What's next for the Gibberishspeaking-Old-Party?

II wrote:

And about the stock market, Puckett.

Yes, I noticed that the economy and the stock market have performed so admirably the last eight years that we needed a near trillion dollar bailout at taxpayer expense.

So yeah the stock market may continue to fall, unemployment will like continue to rise, and yes we are in a recession. Fancy that.

Of course all this happened because Obama was elected to the Presidency. It's as clear as the fluid in your brain.

Hey failing neuron, think for a minute. All the twists your party tried in the election failed. The American people are smarter than you. So why try the same nonsensicals? Grow up and offer an alternative that will work better than yours of the last eight years. Put up or shut. Puhlease.

Rand Simberg wrote:

Yes, I noticed that the economy and the stock market have performed so admirably the last eight years that we needed a near trillion dollar bailout at taxpayer expense.

What a stupid comment. The economy and the stock market did in fact do quite well over the last eight years, if you ignore the past two months. It makes as much sense (in fact, more, in light of the actual history) to blame it on the Democrat Congress, which came in two years ago and screwed it up, as it does on Republicans or George Bush.

Carl Pham wrote:

Er...II, not to break into your full-throated happy roar of slogans, but have you actually thought about what folks do on the stock market?

Here's a clue: they buy stocks (driving up the price) when, looking into the future, they think things will get better, and the price of the stock will rise. They sell stocks (driving the price down) when, again looking into the future, they think things will get worse.

Notice the absence of looking into the past? Nobody is selling stock in November 2008 because of those gosh-darn Bush boo-boos in late 2005.

Stocks and financial markets are generally considered, by people with three-digit IQs, as leading indicators of the economy. They're the canary in the coal mine, warning of impending bad times.

Furthermore, since they are purely speculative -- since the price of stocks and financials is held up entirely by confidence in certain predictions of the future -- they are subject to crises of confidence. Indeed, through much of the Republic's history as a financial institution, what we call a "recession" was generally called a "panic," because of the clear recognition that these things began, if they began in the financial markets, with panic, an outbreak of pessimism about the future.

What we've gone through so far this year is a panic, a massive crisis of confidence about the future among the financial people. Curiously enough, there's nothing in the fundamentals of the economy that gives an obvious reason for such full-scale panic. Unemployment has been pretty steady, inflation pretty tame, and while the scary rise in the price of oil in June gave us a reason to break out the usual round of The Sky Is Falling Peak Oil stories, the decline of oil prices by September (in advance of the latest panic-driven additional collapse) was clearly sending signals that we'd been looking at a speculative bubble, not the steep beginning of a long-term rise. Even foreclosures in the sub-prime market didn't suddenly jump up -- they've been rising at a steady but modest rate.

So what event, then, occuring close to November 2008, do you suppose might make thousands of people earning (say) more than $250,000 a year start to think maybe the future looked substantially dimmer and uncertain? Maybe even inspire a bit of panic, when they started selling those weird financial instruments to get into overseas real estate and tax-free municipals and buyers started say WTF? What is this weird shit you want to sell me? I don't even know its proper price.

Anything come to mind? Anything at all? Thought not.

Bob wrote:

Carl, are you blaming the problems at Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and AIG on an anticipated win by Obama?

You might as well blame the selction of Sarah Palin - and that would be equally off-base and unrelated to the true causes of the crisis.

By the way, (yes this is off-topic), did you see the Fox News report that McCain aides claim Sarah Palin didn't know that Africa was a continent, and didn't know which countries were covered by the NAFTA agreement. You can read about and/or watch the Fox News clip here:

Carl Pham wrote:

Now Bob. My contract with the Illuminati forbids me from revealing any more of my secret inside knowledge of Why What Happens Happens than I already have. Like Nostradamus, I leave you to fill in the gaps with your imagination.

did you see the Fox News report that McCain aides claim Sarah Palin was...[the Antichrist / a Cylon / the real cause of Brad & Jen's breakup / et cetera]

Hmm, well, now I have. But it's not a Fox News report, it's sleazebag hearsay and spin from the whores at Newsweek and the New York Times, who have bent over and spread their cheeks for their Olord's pleasure since early this year.

I'm underwhelmed. And aren't you the wrong sex to be enjoying gossip? Anyway, the most I get is that a secretary or unpaid gopher here and there has discharged breathless tabloid innuendo. Even if every word were true, I'd be wholly unimpressed. I assume you've worked, at least once in your life, on some high-pressure team project? If it bombed, was everyone sweet brotherhood and angelic affability afterward? Not, huh? So what else is new? News flash! Sarah Palin made of flesh and blood! Occasionally calls out sick when merely hung over. Also rumored to fart.

Bob wrote:

Just regarding the media:

Newsweek is running a "Secrets of the Campaign" series (available at, and it is quite good -- even if I knew it wasn't quite true, I would enjoy reading it, much the way I enjoyed "Primary Colors" -- the writing is really quite fun.

The report on Palin not knowing Africa was a continent originated on Fox News --- McCain aides talked to Fox -- no liberal/leftie/democratic/Obama-favoring sleazebags and/or whores were involved.

Carl Pham wrote:

Phoo, Bob, I'm just finishing Remini's biography of Henry Clay and about to start in on Daniel Webster. Far more enjoyable stuff. If I want fluff I can always turn on Simpsons reruns, now that those schrecklich copraphagiphiles at Cox Cable no longer pipe me Futurama to liven the nights.

The report on Palin not knowing Africa was a continent originated...[blah foo bar baz]

Okey dokey, Bob. She's an IQ 82 doofus, then, you smarty you -- you smoked her out! She probably thinks the London Underground is a political movement and has a big SOCKS FIRST THEN SHOES sign tacked to the wall next to her bed. Todd actually runs the State of Alaska, and Bristol fakes her mom's signature as necessary on bills. Whatever.

Rand Simberg wrote:

The report on Palin not knowing Africa was a continent originated on Fox News

So? What's your point?

The fact that anonymous people lied to Carl Cameron on background doesn't make their lies true.

Bob wrote:

My point was quite narrow: Carl Pham said that it wasn't Fox, that it was the sleazebags and whores at Newsweek and my beloved New York Times. I was correcting him by pointing out that Fox News broke the story.

Carl's confusion was very understandable - the link I supplied had print sources from Newsweek and video from Fox News. I think Carl was indirectly referring to the (purported) liberal media bias that is discussed so often in this blog, and I'm saying that this issue isn't relevent to this story. (I say "purported" because I don't believe it and I don't want to sound like I do, but I'm not trying to start an argument.)

Whether the anonymous McCain staffers are lying or not is a different question.

What is striking to me is that by betraying Palin, they are also betraying McCain. I hope these people aren't on McCain's Senate staff, and I'm glad they won't work in the White House. I'm glad I get to hear what they have to say, but I do recognize that they are being unhelpful and disloyal to their boss.

Bob wrote:

I forgot to say this: Carl, that was reallly funny. And I needed to google to figure out what the hell you were talking about, and I got to learn about dung beetles for my trouble. Next time we have a company, I'm going put a sign by the front door that says SOCKS FIRST THEN SHOES. :-)

Rand Simberg wrote:

What is striking to me is that by betraying Palin, they are also betraying McCain. I hope these people aren't on McCain's Senate staff, and I'm glad they won't work in the White House. I'm glad I get to hear what they have to say, but I do recognize that they are being unhelpful and disloyal to their boss.

We can agree on all that, Bob.

Nonetheless, as bad as McCain and his staffers would have been, I would still prefer them to what we are about to get.

As H. L. Mencken said, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

This seems a particularly "good and hard" instance of that timeless wisdom.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on November 5, 2008 9:42 AM.

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