Tuesday, September 28, 2010


The apparently imminent departure of Rahm Emanuel is supposed to please all right-thinking lefties, but George Stephanopoulos, quoting Bob Woodward, gives us one reason to be careful what we wish for (or at least to tweak our theories about his vileness):

Woodward on Afghan War 'Skeptic' (Emanuel) Departing White House

The Afghan war "skeptic" is expected to leave the White House this week to make a run for the Chicago mayor's seat. But how will Rahm Emanuel’s departure affect the war strategy?

... Woodward's book -- an inside look at the wartime president and his closest advisors -- notes Emanuel's skepticism over the Afghan war. At one point Woodward quotes Obama as saying “Nothing would make Rahm happier than if I said no to the 30,000” when he was reaching a decision on the Afghan troop surge.

"[Emanuel's] the skeptic. He said Afghanistan is 'political flypaper' you get stuck to it you can't get off," Woodward told me today....

Hmmm -- Emanuel objected to a deeper involvement in Afghanistan and (according to Jonathan Alter) he wanted to pare down the health care bill to a few popular programs for women and children back in August '09, when it was just becoming clear that the reform effort was becoming widely unpopular?

I'm almost starting to like this guy.

I keep trying to make the point -- and I'm not sure I ever get it across clearly -- that the health care fight was a disaster for the Obama administration and Democrats not so much because of what was in the bill or the easily criticized way the sausage was made, but because Obama and his people lost "the consent of the governed" at just that time, the summer of '09, yet they never grasped the extent to which they lost the public and they never took concrete steps to reverse the public's sense that it was a bad bill. Maybe, even as early as August '09, with the teabaggers and town hallers and Fox on full rampage, it was too late to reverse public opinion on the bill. I think that's what Emanuel thought, and if so, that judgment was a hell of a lot more astute than Obama's. I think Obama should have gone small on health care, and after that he needed to do something that seemed to make a material difference in ordinary citizens' lives in a crappy economy (or at least he needed to be seen fighting tooth and nail to have such an effect). Instead, the health care fight dragged on, and that win drained Obama of so much political capital that he probably won't have another significant win of any kind, on any issue, between now and January '13. If that's how Emanuel saw events unfolding in summer '09, he was smart, and if he'd been heeded, he would have been doing the progressive cause a favor. At the very least, there'd be much less likelihood now of drastic teabaggy policy reversals in the next two (and six) years.

And the war -- I didn't know he was a skeptic. Even if he's just being a political pragmatist, good for him on that.

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