Who Is Rahm Emanuel?

The Straight Talk Express implored the electorate to ask "Who is Barack Obama?" then proceeded to sketch his caricature as Barack Hussein Obama, a Muslim-schooled, untested, inexperienced Communist that we should all be fearful of. Never mind that he wrote two autobiographies of his short life. Let FOXNews define him for us, not his legislative record, his career, or his own confessional words. Why work to slog through the latter sources when the former paints his portrait in broad, lurid strokes visible from 100 miles.

But what I want to know is: Who Is Rahm Emanuel? Here is what Obama said in his introduction on November 6.

OBAMA: I am pleased to announce that my good friend, Congressman Rahm Emanuel, has agreed to serve as my White House chief of staff. I announce this appointment first because the Chief of Staff is central to the ability of a President and Administration to accomplish an agenda. And no one I know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel.

During his seven years in the Clinton White House, Rahm was the point man on some of the most difficult issues, from the passage of landmark anti-crime legislation to the expansion of health care coverage for children. In just six years in Congress, he has risen to leadership, helping to craft myriad important pieces of legislation and guide them to passage. In between, Rahm spent several years in the private sector, where he worked on large and complicated financial transactions. That experience, combined with his service on the committees on Ways and Means and Banking, have given Rahm deep insights into the challenging economic issues that will be front and center for our Administration. Though Rahm understands how to get things done in Washington, he still looks at the world from the perspective of his neighbors and constituents on the Northwest Side of Chicago, who work long and hard, and ask only that their government stand on their side and honor their values. The son of an Israeli immigrant, Rahm shares a passionate love for this country, and has devoted much of his life to its cause.

His decision to accept this position is a wonderful reflection of that commitment, for it is not easy to give up the significant position he holds today as chair of the House Democratic conference. The post he has accepted also will require more time away from Amy, and their children, Zach, Ilana and Leah, which I know is painful and difficult.

I appreciate his friendship. And I, and all Americans, should be grateful that Rahm is once again answering his country's call.

That tells us a little. But let's describe him instead as a neo-Zionist, a sharp-elbowed, partisan pit bull, truth be damned. I went to Wikipedia to learn a little more, for what that's worth. He left his post as Clinton-appointed Board member of Freddie Mac to pursue elected office. His work history includes working as an investment banker after he left the Clinton administration, where he made $18m after two-and-a-half years according to Fortune magazine (read this great profile from 2006). Rahm Emanuel "was the top House recipient in the 2008 election cycle of contributions from hedge funds, private equity firms and the larger securities/investment industry" according to OpenSecret.org.

His father was a member of the Irgun, a militant Zionist group operating in British Palestine from 1931 to 1948. His father also said some egregious nonsense about his son influencing "the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn't he? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to be mopping floors at the White House." I have a tough time writing that without the bile rising in my throat or my knuckles whitening. Emanuel has apologized for his cantankerous offensive father to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

The PlanIn his book, The Plan: Big Ideas for America, Emanuel and Bruce Reed propose a flat tax, a College Tax Credit, a Universal Mortgage Deduction, and other modes of tax reform to a byzantine system. He describes a system of Universal Children's Health Care. He advocates an end to "corporate welfare," costly disbursements to corporations which skew the market economy. He proposes mandatory public service for American youth. These proposals tell me something more, but still don't paint a complete picture of Emanuel.

I think it is essential to be skeptical of the new leadership entering the White House. I hate the fearmongering that passes for news. I hate the fawning too. Obama is now more a symbol than a leader. But as he begins to lead, there can be no honeymoon period. The stakes are too high. He needs to hit the ground running and not let up til 2017. Guantanamo Bay. Iraq. Afghanistan. Carbon emissions reduction. Health insurance. Financial Industry regulation. Infrastructure investment. Tax cuts. Alternative energy. Environmental protection. Pakistan. Free trade. The list goes on.

Obama is credited with a sharp intellect, openmindedness, sound judgment, and a willingness to find quality advisors, even if they disagree with him. As his Cabinet fills out, the media should be reading the entrails of each appointee's credentials and telling us what it means, not sketching broad caricatures designed rankle or woo us.

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