As the election of Barack Obama appeared almost certain even before November 4, 2008 leaks about a proposed cabinet began to appear in the press and blogs everywhere. The name of former Congressman Rahm Emanuel, known in the halls of Congress as the foul mouth, "get-it-done" operative, rose to the must-have Chief of Staff for Obama, mostly to counterbalance the "above the fray" cool and collected young Democrat, about to be elected.Cheers went up from all corners of the Democratic intelligentsia and loud criticism from Republicans and the rabid extreme right, all indications that the president-to-be was on the right track. The chief of staff, in addition to being the gatekeeper of the Oval Office is also the guy who navigates the corridors of power in the Capitol to let legislators know who is in charge and remind recalcitrants of the power that the one in charge really has.
Some 10 months into the job, little is heard from the new boy wonder, Mr. Emanuel. Democrats were hopeful that he could have been the counterpoint to the soon-to-depart Karl Rove, albeit with more ethics and respect for the law. They were slowly realizing that Rahm Emanuel was not quite living up to his reputation of being a ruthless background operative. Afghanistan and health care reform have been terribly contentious issues for Barack Obama, not to mention the disastrous economy, all of which have seemingly not been part of Mr. Emanuel's "enforcer" role.
The president has continued to be the "cool and serene" guy we thought we would get, but his team has failed him up to this point. Bush had Cheney and Rove to deliver the blows that left Democrats to rubber stamp approvals on most initiatives of W. Bush. By contrast, most Democrat legislators are looking over their shoulders to ensure that they offend no one so that their re-election is less turbulent. The arm twisting that needed to be done by the disappearing Mr. Emanuel has not taken place and these so-called conservative Democrats are not delivering for Obama. The Republican opposition has been disgraceful in their behavior but continue to receive respectful treatment from the president.
Governing requires a "team of rivals" that are not concerned about being too bi-partisan and recognize when the need to do it alone is at hand. Barack Obama needs to urgently allow his "tough" side to take over and demand better performance of his chief of staff or simply replace him with someone who can knock some heads to get the results that the voters wanted. His Democratic congressional leadership must also provide stronger direction to its members so that this opportunity to do the people's business properly is not wasted in pointless bickering.
Could we simply remember that the opposition is led by Michelle Bachman and Glenn Beck of all peoples? Give me a break!