Monday, June 21, 2010

Vicuna Coats, Please

Matt Yglesias has a terrific reading of the story out of the UK about Rahm Emanuel supposedly planning to leave after the election.  I agree with each of his points: that the story doesn't seem to have any actual evidence; that Rahm holds a high-turnover position, so leaving after two years would be no surprise; and that the complaints about Rahm in the story seem to miss the point that the White House has actually been pretty effective. 

My comment here is that, as a political junkie, I've been hoping and expecting that Rahm Emanuel's tenure as White House chief of staff will end with something a little more spectacular than simply being burnt out after two years.  Here's what I said back in August:
Emanuel is by my count the fifth WH Chief of Staff who previously served in elected office. Two (Panetta and Howard Baker) retired on their own terms; two others, Sherman Adams and John Sununu, resigned after scandal, but odds are in both cases the scandal was a result of the enemies created by their style in office rather than a result of particular ethical shortcomings (I'm confident that's true of Sununu, but I'm only really guessing on Adams -- I don't know the history well enough to say).

I think it's an fairly safe prediction that Rahm ends up more like Adams/Sununu than like Panetta/H. Baker. He's most likely an excellent chief of staff, but odds are he's making plenty of enemies, and when he does something dumb they'll all pounce. Just the nature of the job. 
We here at Plain Blog wouldn't wish misfortune on anyone, but I am really fond of entertaining political scandals, and I guess I'll be a bit disappointed if Rahm's downfall doesn't involve something like visiting the dentist the wrong way.  Just making him the fall guy for a lousy midterm election would be, in my view, a bit sad.

I guess I can add one more thing to that.  One can never tell about individuals and their career choices; outsiders can see the incentives, but we can't know how they actually react to those incentives.  So it's possible that Rahm Emanuel actually wants only two years as White House Chief of Staff.  Really, however...I suspect that in the event, most people would rather stay than leave.  And why not?  Rahm Emanuel will never have as much influence over politics and public affairs as he does right now.  He clearly likes having such influence, or at least he's run his life as if that's what he likes.  I can't quite see someone with that record walking away from it voluntarily.  I'm not saying it couldn't happen; as I said, one can never tell about individuals and their career choices.  I just don't expect it. 


  1. Rahm Emanuel will never have as much influence over politics and public affairs as he does right now.

    Wait a minute--you're saying that this man has peaked (and there's no evidence of that) and that he will never again have as much influence as he does now--and you call yourself a "political scientist?"

    I'd start reading a few more books and maybe thinking about selling used cars. Here's a hint--Carmax is the bomb. They sell as many as a thousand cars a month if they're in the right location. Give them a jingle, will ya?

  2. Perhaps I was unclear: he'll never have as much influence over politics and public affairs after he leaves his current job as he does right now.

    Is it possible that I'm wrong about that? Sure. He could become president. He could return to the House and become Speaker. He could be nominated and confirmed for a seat on the Supreme Court. I'd say that WH chief of staff is probably more influential than any other single position, of course depending on the relationship between the president and the CoS, but I'd be pretty surprised if Rahm is a weak one.

    Oh, and he could wait thirty years and wind up a freakishly powerful Vice President, but the best career advice would probably not be to plan on that one.


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