My Take on Rahm

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but David Broder actually had a good column yesterday, successfully bringing an insider’s knowledge and veteran’s perspective to put something of a dampening on the round of Rahmapalooza that’s broken out in the past week. The articles in the Post were mostly awful, not really giving you much insight into what’s going on, and with no real way to evaluate the veractiy of its claims. Noam Scheiber’s profile in TNR is much better, although that estimation is certainly clouded by the fact that it basically tracks with what I’ve assumed the intra-administration working dynamic looks like. I think Ezra gets it basically right; other than the day to day management of the White House staff, Rahm’s job is basically to be a politics guys, especially legislative politics. And when arguments arise over policy, Rahm is basically losing to the people who are there to shape policy. I think that’s basically a good thing, although it’s interesting to note that two arguments Rahm lost on, doing financial reform early in 2009 and telling Max Baucus to drop the Gang of Six stalling, are clearly places where you could make a very good case that he really should have been listened to and, assuming the claims are correct, really can give Obama some flak for not taking his advice. On the other hand, without knowing why Obama went the other direction, I guess that’s sort of a hard case to make. Maybe he believed that doing financial reform right really would take more time. In the case of Baucus, I find it very plausible that he, or the Vice-President, realized there was nothing they could really do to force a Senator to do something they didn’t want to do, and so simply not to antagonize the conservadem Finance chair. It’s really hard to say. But what we do get out of this, I think, is an understanding of a couple of points. First, that Rahm does have a pretty good feel for the politics of the administration’s agenda, even if his inclination is to trim the sails more than any of us would like. Secondly, that he is losing internal battles, and that he’s not the shadow President, secretly pulling Obama’s strings and selling the hippies out to corporate America.