Emanuel's Power Grows in Obama White House

Sunday, 16 Aug 2009 11:22 PM

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WASHINGTON — White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is emerging not only as the most powerful presidential aide in the Obama administration, but one of the influential Oval Office power brokers in a generation, according to The New York Times.

The Times reported Sunday that Emanuel’s power is now so sweeping that he recently vetoed the hiring of Sidney Blumenthal by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Blumenthal had generated too much bad blood in the Obama ranks during the campaign, Emanuel bluntly told her, and could not join the administration.

The anecdote also illustrates just how far Emanuel has come: 16 years ago Secretary Clinton, then first lady, had Emanuel demoted as a senior official in Bill Clinton’s White House after he ruffled feathers with his aggressive style.

The son of former Israeli freedom fighters, Emanuel is the principal author of Mr. Obama’s do-everything-at-once strategy. His success may very much ride on how well and how quickly the administration stabilizes the economy and financial markets, overhauls the healthcare system and winds down one war while successfully prosecuting another.

And while he’s known as a bitter partisan fighter, even some Republicans credit Emanuel, a former House member from Illinois, with serving as a major bridge between the GOP and the Obama White House.

“I’ve heard more from Rahm in six months than I heard from Andy Card in six years, and Card’s daughter worked for me,” said former Representative Tom Davis, Republican of Virginia, referring to a chief of staff under President George W. Bush.

Emanuel now must shepherd healthcare legislation into law for the White House, a task that is growing harder by the day.

“He’s about to be tested; he’s spinning a lot of plates over there and he breaks a lot of china,” said Joel Johnson, a close friend and fellow veteran official of the Clinton White House told the Times. “They’ve had some good success early on, but they’ve got a number of major pieces of the agenda in the queue, and it’s going to be really difficult.”

The caricature of Mr. Emanuel as a profanity-spewing operative has given way to a more nuanced view: as a profanity-spewing operative with a keen understanding of how to employ power on behalf of a new president with relatively little experience in Washington, the Times reported.

“He can juggle 20 or 25 things in one day, in part by delegating and in part by picking only the things that matter,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican congressman recruited by Mr. Emanuel to serve in the cabinet, told the Times.

Where Mr. Obama is known for cool detachment, Mr. Emanuel presses until the breaking point, then presses some more. “The president has a zenlike quality,” said Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod. “Rahm is a pile driver.”

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