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by Alexander Cockburn

The Year Credibility Vanished (2005)

The first trumpet blast of change ushers in Rahm Emanuel as Obama's chief of staff and gatekeeper. This is the man who arranges his schedule, staffs out the agenda, includes, excludes. It's certainly as sinister an appointment as, say, Carter's installation of arch cold-warrior Zbigniew Brzezinski as his National Security Adviser at the dawn of his "change is here" administration in 1977.

Emanuel represents the worst of the Clinton years. He made brisk millions in Wall Street then worked in the Clinton White House. He's a super-Likudnik hawk, who volunteered to serve in Israel in 1991 and whose father was in the far-right Irgun in the late forties, responsible for cold-blooded massacres of Palestinians. Dad's unreconstructed ethnic outlook has been memorably embodied in his recent remark to the Ma'ariv newspaper that "Obviously (Rahm) will influence the president to be pro-Israel. ... Why wouldn't he be (influential)? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to clean the floors of the White House."

Working in the Clinton White House, Emanuel helped push through NAFTA, the crime bill, the balanced budget and welfare reform. He favored the war in Iraq, and when he was chairing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006, he made great efforts to knock out antiwar Democratic candidates.

In 2006, Emanuel had just published a book with Bruce Reed called "The Plan: Big Ideas for America," with one section focused on "the war on terror." Emanuel and Reed wrote, "We need to fortify the military's 'thin green line' around the world by adding to the U.S. Special Forces and the Marines, and by expanding the U.S. army by 100,000 more troops. ... Finally we must protect our homeland and civil liberties by creating a new domestic counterterrorism force like Britain's MI5." Recall that Obama has been calling throughout his recent campaign for an addition of 92,000 to the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps.

Emanuel and Reed had fond words for the mad dog Peter Beinart, neo-con warrior theoretician for the Democrats, roosting at Marty Peretz's The New Republic, and author of "The Good Fight," in which Beinart explains why a tough new national security policy is as essential to the future of progressive politics as a united front against totalitarianism and communism was to the New Deal and the Great Society. Emanuel and Reed also commended Anne-Marie Slaughter's proposal for "a new division of labor in which the United Nations takes on economic and social assistance and an expanded NATO takes over the burden of collective security." In other words, let NATO shoot the natives and the United Nations clean the floors.

Emanuel is credited with superintending the Democrats' comeback in the House in 2006. The truth is a bit different. To recapture the House, the Dems had to win 15 seats from the Republicans. Professor John Walsh of MIT identified 22 candidates hand picked by Emanuel to run in open districts or districts with Republican incumbents. Emanuel favored the war in Iraq and picked candidates matching his prowar views. Of these, nine adopted a "U.S. 'must win' in Iraq" position and only one of Emanuel's candidates was for prompt withdrawal from Iraq.

"Looking at all 22 candidates hand-picked by Rahm, " Walsh wrote immediately after the election, "we find that 13 were defeated, and only 8 won! And remember that this was the year of the Democratic tsunami and that Rahm's favorites were handsomely financed by the Democratic Congress Campaign Committee, controlled by Emanuel. The Dems picked up 28 seats so far, maybe more. So out of that 28, Rahm's choices accounted for 8! Since the Dems only needed 15 seats to win the House, Rahm's efforts were completely unnecessary. Had the campaign rested on Rahm's choices, there would have been only 8 or 9 new seats, and the Dems would have lost. In fact, Rahm's efforts were probably counterproductive for the Dems since the great majority of voters were antiwar and they were voting primarily on the issue of the war (60 percent according to CNN). But Rahm's candidates were not antiwar."

Presumably, Obama is remembering the wretched first months of Bill Clinton's administration, when incompetence, poor liaison and arrogance (Emanuel himself mortally offended the late senator Pat Moynihan) permitted Congress to ride roughshod over Clinton's initial proposals. So from that perspective maybe the tough, can-do Emanuel, wise in the ways of Congress, makes sense. But it scarcely represents change, any more than does putting former Georgia senator Sam Nunn on the search committee for the next Secretary of Defense. And for those hoping for a changed foreign policy, a Zionist fanatic at Obama's elbow scarcely sends an encouraging signal.

© Creators Syndicate

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Albion Monitor   November 13, 2008   (

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