Rahm Emanuel may leave the Obama administration by the end of the year, according to the London Telegraph’s Alex Spillius. His sources tell him that Barack Obama’s powerful chief of staff has grown weary dealing with ideologues and wants to get out of the fire for a while to reconnect to his family. Spillius also says that the White House may be pleased to see him go when the time comes:
It is well known in Washington that arguments have developed between pragmatic Mr Emanuel, a veteran in Congress where he was known for driving through compromises, and the idealistic inner circle who followed Mr Obama to the White House.
His abrasive style has rubbed some people the wrong way, while there has been frustration among Mr Obama’s closest advisers that he failed to deliver a smooth ride for the president’s legislative that his background promised.
“It might not be his fault, but the perception is there,” said the consultant, who asked not to be named. “Every vote has been tough, from health care to energy to financial reform.
“Democrats have not stood behind the president in the way Republicans did for George W Bush, and that was meant to be Rahm’s job.”
There were sharp differences over health care reform, with Mr Emanuel arguing that public hostility about cost should have forced them into producing a scaled down package. Mr Obama and advisers including David Axelrod, the chief strategist, and Valerie Jarrett, a businesswoman and mentor from Chicago, decided to push through with grander legislation anyway.
An exit by Emanuel would not come as a complete shock. Chiefs of staff do not necessarily last for entire terms anyway, and they become expendable after major political defeats. Bill Clinton had four in his two terms, with Mack McClarty hitting the exits after Clinton’s disastrous first midterm election in favor of the more politically adept Leon Panetta.
Still, Emanuel is the one man in the inner circle who understood how to get things done in Washington. Axelrod and Jarrett are Chicago pols and outsiders to the Beltway. That outsider status helps Presidents sell their agenda to the people, but it doesn’t help the White House sell it on Capitol Hill. While Obama won the ObamaCare fight despite Emanuel’s advice (a fact that Emanuel appears to be leaking copiously all over Washington), the battles have damaged Obama’s ability to move on any other issue in the weeks since. Thanks to a nationwide revulsion at the massive spending agenda the ObamaCare bill represents, Obama can’t even get a jobs bill through Congress now, let alone his cap-and-trade priority.
The Telegraph says that this will be another sign of how troubled the Obama presidency has become. Perhaps, although that may depend more on who replaces Emanuel when (and if) he leaves rather than the departure itself. The big sign of Obama’s troubles will be the midterms. If it’s the realignment most expect now, Emanuel would have left anyway. The question of who replaces him will set the tone for the rest of Obama’s presidency. If he selects someone with more subtlety and diplomacy with both parties on Capitol Hill, then Obama may attempt to move back towards the center in a Clintonian fashion. If he picks another ideologue, expect the Obama presidency to run completely off the rails in its final two years.
Update: Moe Lane notes that the White House had a denial out early this morning, but that’s not too surprising, either. That kind of personnel move only gets announced when it happens, and denied right up until the moment before.