A few months ago I started to hear that Nancy Pelosi was dining out on her enmity toward Rahm Emanuel, saying her goals for the year included, together with the health-care bill, his head.
That’s significant rancor—even for Washington (theirs goes back a long time). And even greater ambitiousness—on a level quite impressive even for Washington—to want to take down the guy second only to the president himself.
It’s a putsch that now seems in obvious progress
. One indication is that there is suddenly a dignified, if implausible, rationale for why Rahm might want to leave: Because he’s frustrated, because he’s temperamentally unsuited to the job (he’s a screamer), or because he’s decided to run for mayor of Chicago.
The White House, of course, if it has to sacrifice Rahm, will try to make it a particular circumstance, a personality issue—a bit of minor tinkering with the players. But I think it will be widely understood as the singular indication of the keen disappointments of the president's first year on the part of a large number of democrats (powerful ones).
For them, this White House is so much more about strategy and management than salesmanship—and they do love salesmanship (everybody does). This White House is so…top down. Certainly the White House has tried to manage Congress from above, without a base within—without soulmates (left, right, or center). Its view has been, in a sense, anti-Pelosi—or anti-numbskull. Just move, force, discipline these cretins. (Rahm knows how dumb they are and how idiotically intractable they can be.)
But it isn’t just Congress. Within the White House, too, or anyway among the true believers in the White House, there’s uncertainly about the Man (and brand). There is, as anyone might have reasonably anticipated there would be, a line drawn between the Obama purists and the Clinton-schooled operatives. The former believe in the power of the uniqueness of the Man, the latter believe in the power of strategy and execution. (Sure, those two approaches mix—but they diverge, too.) Curiously, the former Clinton people tend to be anti-Clintonists now—for them, now, so many years later, it’s all about discipline and control: plan, implementation, accomplishment.
The rumors have Valerie Jarrett taking over from Rahm Emanuel —that’s not only a radical change of style, from son-of-a-bitch to unassuming, but a restoration of the Obama true believers.
It’s a year in and, with the understanding that you only really get two years to prove yourself (this may not be true, but it’s what people believe at the end of year one), the great reversal naturally begins.
Still, there will be a health-care bill, the economy is trending the right way, setbacks will likely be manageable for the midterms, and, there’s certainly no credible Republican threat in 2012. Rahm, for his part, is arguing for staying the course. But no one ever does.
More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.