In Obama's entire circle of advisers, one man rises above the pack, gaining the reputation as the most ruthless political figure in America today. This man is Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff.
Instead of being an impassioned ideologue, he enjoys utilizing Machiavellian tactics to achieve more traditional political ends. With his aggressive tactics, he has earned the nickname of "Rahmbo."
He lost a finger at the age of 17, and since then, Emanuel has been a driven man. Working at an Arby's, he sliced his finger, but he insisted on attending his prom and swimming in Lake Michigan before going to the hospital. His finger became badly infected, forcing him to have it amputated during a lengthy stay in Children's Hospital. Never the same after the incident, Emanuel lives with an intense passion for life and a drive that alienates people, but achieves results.
Once a skilled and disciplined ballet dancer, he attended college on a dance scholarship. He became involved in his first campaign as an undergraduate, and his political career took off from there. His climb began while working on Richard Daley's mayoral campaigns in the late '80s, where he proved himself an avid fund-raiser.
As Emanuel called donors, if they gave less than he thought they could, he would refuse to accept their contribution. Then, he resorted to goading them by stating that he thought they were wealthier and bigger donors. Oftentimes, donors would call him back, apologize, and then give Emanuel's desired amount.
Cutting his teeth in Chicago machine politics helped him develop his no-holds-barred style of campaigning. As a member of the Daley machine, Obama's chief of staff has been involved in his share of shady dealings. In Emanuel's 2002 congressional race, Daley forced city patronage workers to run a get-out-the vote campaign that is still being investigated for campaign violations.
Emanuel's exploits are legendary. Once he had a disagreement with a pollster, so he sent him a rotten fish. At a dinner party in 1992, the day after Clinton's hard-won election, Emanuel viciously attacked those whom he called betrayers. Spouting their name and shouting, "Dead! . . . Dead! . . . Dead!" he plunged a knife into the table after each name. Now, he is bringing these tactics along with his foul mouth to the White House.
This hardnosed political operative employs methods and tactics that would make Karl Rove blush. Rahm fights like a rooster in a cock fight. A political street fighter, he is the enforcer lurking behind Obama's pretty words about bipartisanship and unity.
Emanuel retired from the Clinton White House in 1998 and moved to Wall Street to make his fortune. He worked for Bruce Wasserstein, a major Democratic donor and Wall Street financier. Over the course of two and a half years, he milked his political connections to help broker deals, and he made $18 million. Emanuel is not ashamed to look out for number one. Once rich, he headed back to politics.
As the chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee in 2006, he is largely credited as the architect of the Democratic landslide. He did it, in large measure, by remaking the Democratic Party in his own image. He won by aggressively recruiting candidates, and then, relentlessly driving his candidates to raise money. With money in hand, they launched a series of negative ads that are unmatched in campaign history.
Emanuel famously said, "Rule one: Never allow a crisis to go to waste ... They are opportunities to do big things." He is pushing Obama's administration to do that now.
Obama is the star of the show and Rahm is the one who is directing the play. Rahm is well connected inside D.C., and uses his friendships with John Podesta, James Carville and Paul Begala to great effect.
Obama, the inexperienced "outsider," is being taught the ropes by Rahm, the insider. One of the best examples of this inside-and outsid-the-White House coordination is the campaign to demonize and target Rush Limbaugh. You can bet that Rahm Emanuel helped to make it happen.
Rahm has brought his aggressive attitude to work in implementing Obama's agenda. He personally was instrumental in rounding up votes for the stimulus bill, by intensely pressuring three moderate Republican senators and threatening conservative Democrats.
Washington, D.C. has definitely gotten uglier as Rahmbo storms through it, hell-bent on taking no prisoners.
The Browns, bestselling authors and speakers, write a national column distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. To comment on this column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.