IS RAHM RUNNING THE SHOW?
WASHINGTON — As White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel was the one to bring the hammer down on Sidney Blumenthal.
David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett with Rahm Emanuel, who seems as if he is also political, legislative and communications director.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wanted to hire Mr. Blumenthal, a loyal confidant who had helped her promote the idea of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” more than a decade ago. But President Obama’s campaign veterans still blamed him for spreading harsh attacks against their candidate in the primary showdown with Mrs. Clinton last year.
So Mr. Emanuel talked with Mrs. Clinton, said Democrats informed about the situation, and explained that bringing Mr. Blumenthal on board was a no-go. The bad blood among his colleagues was too deep, and the last thing the administration needed, he concluded, was dissension and drama in the ranks. In short, Mr. Blumenthal was out.
Perhaps nothing illustrates how far Mr. Emanuel has come than that conversation last month. Sixteen years ago, it was Mrs. Clinton, then first lady, who helped have Mr. Emanuel demoted as a senior official in Bill Clinton’s White House after he ruffled feathers with his aggressive style. Now all these years later, it is Mr. Emanuel telling Mrs. Clinton what she cannot do as a member of the cabinet.
Seven months after moving into his office in the West Wing, Mr. Emanuel is emerging as perhaps the most influential White House chief of staff in a generation. But with his prominence in almost everything important going on in Washington comes a high degree of risk.
As the principal author of Mr. Obama’s do-everything-at-once strategy, he stands to become a figure of consequence in his own right if the administration stabilizes the economy and financial markets, overhauls the health care system and winds down one war while successfully prosecuting another.
If things do not go well — and right now Mr. Obama’s political popularity is declining, his health care legislation is under conservative assault, the budget deficit is at an eye-popping level and Afghanistan remains volatile — it is Mr. Emanuel whose job will be on the line before Mr. Obama’s.