Emanuel renews hope for a better future

November 21, 2008 — by Uttara Sivaram

It was the celebratory night of the 1996 re-election of President Clinton when one of his strategists decided enough was enough. Slamming a steak knife into the table, he shouted, “Die, die, die!” as he rattled off the names of former enemies of newly-elected President Clinton. Earlier, he had gleefully mailed a dead fish to an estranged coworker. And as of this January, he will be the chief of staff to the president. Watch out, McCain—Rahmbo may have you next on his hit list.

Which is not to say that Emanuel is a bad guy. In fact, he’s a downright gentleman, especially when compared to many of today’s delightful politicians (not pointing any fingers). Emanuel knows how to get things done, whether it be passing legislation or orchestrating the dramatic comeback of the Democratic congressional victory in 2006. After receiving a master’s degree in speech and communication, he quickly rose among the ranks of ambitious politicians, landing himself in the West Wing of the White House as chief strategist for Bill Clinton. Emanuel and his colorful personality were finally beginning to be recognized among the corridors of power in Washington.

However, as the sun set on the Clinton presidency, Emanuel jumped ship and immersed himself in finance, where he became managing director at a reputable Chicago based firm, Wasserstein Perella. But after a couple of years in the business, Emanuel caught the public service bug and resigned his post to run for the U.S. House seat from Illinois’ 5th District. The election was a breeze for Emanuel, and he not only became a successful and charismatic Congressman, but also the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, making powerful friends along the way—such as fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama and his campaign strategist David Axelrod.

Clearly Emanuel has much to boast about; but his strong roots to his religion, yet modest upbringing, keep him down to earth, making him an excellent choice for Obama’s chief of staff. Born in Chicago, Emanuel was raised to be a devout Jew and is fiercely passionate about the U.S. stance in Israel. As a result, Emanuel even served as a civilian volunteer for the Israeli Army.

Complementing the youth and radicalism of Obama, Emanuel has the drive without the thirst, the aggression without the foolishness and the experience without the weariness. However, his usefulness extends even beyond his valuable White House experience, for he can steer politics back on track. While president-elect Obama expounds on bipartisanship, Emanuel has the potential to weave Obama’s ideas into something concrete.

And just in case Emanuel gets too carried away in his partisan politics, Obama can always fish him back out. The two balance each other out, yin and yang. Obama may have to be on guard against Emanuel’s Godfather-inspired belligerence; but there’s nothing more refreshing than seeing a politician who knows what he wants and can be trusted to make it happen.

Emanuel has proven himself, time and time again, to be not only a trustworthy, but also an exciting politician to watch. For one, he’s had strange training for a White House chief of staff—financing, strategizing, campaigning and doing civil work in Israel. And of course, his tendencies to go over the top always make a good story. Heck, Emanuel even became an influence for one of Aaron Sorkin’s “West Wing” characters. That has to stand for something.

But especially now, in the midst of a devastating financial crisis and an ever-burgeoning national debt, the president’s right-hand man is almost as responsible for the country’s welfare as his boss is. And putting aside the dead fish and steak knife tirades, Emanuel will do his country proud. Yes he can.

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