Rahm Emanuel will be appearing at a press conference today with the President. Pete Rouse will be replacing him, at least on an interim basis, as White House Chief of Staff.
Will this be a good move or a bad move? Well, time will tell.
Basically, anyone is a good replacement for Rahm. DC lives in a bubble of Rahm-generated propaganda that has people believing he was responsible for the seats gained in the 2006 election. No, the war in Iraq was responsible for the seats gained in 2006 election. Rahm threatened to cut any candidate off who spoke out against the war, and left a lot of seats on the table as a result. Larry Kissel lost by 549 votes, Gary Trauner lost by 970 votes, Dan Maffei lost 51-49, as did Victoria Wulsin, who had the chance to take out Mean Jean Schmidtt. Instead Rahm tried to play kingmaker and pushed grassroots favorite Christine Cegelis out of the IL-06 race, dumping $3 million into Tammy Duckworth’s campaign in order to protect his ego. She lost.
There is no hope of reclaiming Hispanic support with Rahm in the White House. He pissed off the entire Hispanic caucus and triggered a revolt on the House floor by forcing all the freshmen to cosponsor the SAVE Act in 2007, having convinced himself (and everyone else) that Duckworth lost because she was “too soft on immigration.” No, seriously, this really happened. The SAVE Act failed, but most of it was incorporated into the border security bill recently passed by Congress. A Democratic freshman in 2008 told me that when he was running, Rahm told him not to worry about Hispanic voters in his district, because his own district was 25% Hispanic. “They don’t vote, don’t worry about ’em.” After Obama punted on his promise to bring up a comprehensive immigration bill in his first year, the Hispanic press has been excoriating him. Univision anchor Jorge Ramos accused him of a “lack of leadership,” and Hispanic support for Democrats has dropped from a 32 to a 13 point margin since June. Hispanic voters provided the margin of victory for Obama in 3 key states in 2008. There’s no way he gets that back until Rahm goes.
Rahm always wanted to make himself the story. This was incredibly toxic to the White House. Moreover, Rahm brought his bad blood with bloggers into the Oval Office, and made them entirely too focused on what was being said on the toobz.
A bit plus for Rouse is that he eschews the limelight. But the White House probably needs some new blood, someone who has not been living in an insular bubble of Rahm-generated paranoia, defensiveness and egotism. There is just no way that at this point in the election cycle that the White House should be obsessively focused on what their liberal critics are saying about them.
They desperately need some oxygen pumped into the White House. Here’s hoping Rouse can bring it.