One more thing about the Rahm Emanuel exit. I've been seeing some comments to the effect that this is one of those Washington stories that no one out in the rest of the country cares about, one of those things that people obsessed with Washington status get obsessive about instead of caring about What Really Matters.
I think that's entirely wrong. Well, it's true that no one out in the rest of the nation cares about who the White House Chief of Staff might be, and it's true that people in Washington might care about this because they're inappropriately obsessed with status. And of course the buck stops with the president, and all of that. But, in fact, the White House Chief of Staff is typically one of the half-dozen or so most important people in the United States government. People spend a lot of time worrying about who will be president, but the truth is that Ronald Reagan 1981-1984 (James Baker) and 1987-1988 (Howard Baker) was a much better president than Ronald Reagan 1985-1987 (Don Regan). Bill Clinton from mid-1994 (Leon Panetta, Erskine Bowles, and John Podesta) was an effective president; Bill Clinton before that (Mack McLarty) was ineffective. Jimmy Carter was a terrible president, and but perhaps things would have been a lot different if he had a CoS like J. Baker, Panetta, or Podesta instead of Hamilton Jordan. Yes, the presidency is constrained in all sorts of ways, but to the extent that presidents are important, then their chiefs of staff are important. It really does matter whether the White House runs well or badly. It can affect who (if anyone) fills open posts in the government, and which options the president even considers, and, well, just the capacity of the presidency to tackle multiple areas of public policy at once. And whether the White House runs well or badly is going to be the immediate responsibility of the chief of staff. The press is quite right to be paying attention to this one.