He is smart and tough. But he has been, in both positions [as Clinton staffer and House member], a vicious graceless partisan: narrow, hectic, unremittingly aggressive, vulgar, and impatient. Those who have worked for and with him come away impressed but not inspired, and generally not loyal.
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.
Daschle was the touted alternative; instead, he went with a crony from Chicago. Word on the street is that we could be looking at Secretary of State John Kerry by the end of the week. Can you feel it?