07 November 2008

On Rahm

A lot of folks are uncertain about whether Obama has tapped the right guy as chief of staff. Rahm Emanuel has a history as a bit of a . . . pit bull, ironically. He's a highly partisan, inflammatory figure in the political world. The right has been quick to point out the blatant about-face from Obama the campaigner to Obama the president-elect. The left has been scratching heads and musing about whether we all got hoodwinked. Meanwhile, Obama himself says "No one I know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel."

What to make of it all? Who knows. Could the honeymoon be over so quickly? Perhaps. But take this into consideration. If Obama is interested in getting hard work done quickly, if he's not interested in hearing "No," and if he's aware that his first steps in office will be embattled from the beginning no matter who his chief of staff, then maybe he's not worried about taking everybody's feelings into account on this. He has a long working relationship and friendship with Emanuel. He trusts Emanuel, and voters as of Tuesday appear to trust Obama.

It's worth pointing out that on Tuesday night, President-Elect Barack Obama did not take the stage grinning from ear to ear. He would have been forgiven had it been the glory of the win that took center stage. Instead, I was struck by the gravity of his demeanor. He smiled, yet he looked exhausted, not elated. And if he projected a single, overriding characteristic at midnight from Grant Park, it was that he appeared resolute. He appeared as a man who knows, after two years of relentless hard work, that the real challenge is just underway. To win this campaign, Obama surrounded himself with brilliant, committed people and did not get caught up in the attacks and questions from cynics and armchair quarterbacks. Today he is lauded as having run perhaps the most flawless campaign in presidential history.

If Obama is an effective president, nobody except a few historians and political geeks will be talking in the future about who his chief of staff was. And if it turns out that he is not going to be an effective president, then there will be plenty of finger pointing and bombast to go around. Let's just wait and see, shall we?