Just as American liberals convinced themselves to love Joe Biden -- the pro-war career politician whose chief legislative achievement appears to have been the imprisoning of hundreds of thousands of Americans through his pet project, the war on drugs -- I have no doubt the giddy partisans at Daily Kos and elsewhere will find much to love about Barack Obama's newly announced chief of staff, the pro-war corporatist Rahm Emanuel. Indeed, self-proclaimed progressives like Matthew Yglesias are already gliding past Emanuel's support for the Iraq war (which Yglesias, like most respectable Democratic pundits at the time, also supported) to fawn over the alleged grit and toughness he will bring to the Obama White House.
While I won't claim to have had all that much interaction with Emanuel, at the press conferences I have spoken to him, he has, frankly, always come across as the archetypal sleaze-bag politician convinced of his own slickness and drunk off his political power. That he's corrupt is also fairly well established -- notice that he was on the board of directors of Freddie Mac, the government corporation at the center of the housing bubble and subsequent economic collapse, at a time when it was cooking its books to deceive investors. No wonder he and his fellow progressive Democrats were so loathe to provide more oversight for Fannie and Freddie as they dove into the sub-prime mortgage market.
In the summer of '07, I also distinctly remember Emanuel openly ridiculing Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) right off the floor of the House of Representatives for -- horror of horrors -- passing out fliers to his fellow lawmakers detailing how the oil "revenue sharing" law Congress was trying to force down the Iraqi parliament's throat was, in fact, merely an attempt to "privatize" (i.e. forcibly expropriate) Iraq's oil fields for the benefit of U.S. corporations.
"Yeah, it's all about the oil," Emanuel chortled to a like-minded congressman.
Needless to say -- in addition to unrepentantly backing an Iraq war he claims was merely mismanaged -- Emanuel also happens to be extremely ignorant of issues concerning Iraq and the Middle East in general (these tend to be qualifications for government service, however), as he revealed on an episode of "Real Time" with Bill Maher last year:
The Iranians are a Persian culture and the House of Saud is a Shiite government, a total different culture and a different people and etc. The question about Saudi Arabia is there is a clear, they have been funding radical schools throughout the Mideast and it is a big problem for us.Close Rahm. Except Saudi Arabia is very much a Sunni country, while Iran is, in fact, Shiite. After five years of a war in Iraq, when the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite should be abundantly clear, Obama's new, widely respected chief of staff went on national television and showed he knows less about the Middle East than a Bush administration foreign policy adviser. It should also be pointed out that congressional Democrats were some of the loudest supporters of the U.S. support for the mujahideen in Afghanistan and Pakistan in their war against the Soviet Union -- the same backing that was contingent on Saudi Arabia providing matching funds that largely went to building and operating the madrassas Emanuel now rightly decries, but I digress.
But Emanuel's ignorance aside, the decision to pick him as his chief of staff -- like the pick of Biden for vice president, and Susan Rice, Madeleine Albright, Dennis Ross, et al as foreign police advisers -- more importantly signals that a President Obama fully embraces the concept of liberal, "humanitarian" intervention (his pledge to escalate the U.S.'s failing military occupation in Afghanistan certainly isn't an example of the neo-McGovernite foreign policy that foaming-at-the-mouth neoconservative types were warning about prior to his election).
Emanuel is the also same guy, it should be noted, who engaged in this exchange with Tim Russert back in the summer of 2005:
MR. RUSSERT: So even knowing there are no weapons of mass destruction, you would still vote to go into Iraq?So Emanuel's main objection to the Iraq war is not that it has resulted in the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians (silly hippy), but that it was mismanaged. This, of course, was the same argument that Obama supposedly opposed during the Democratic primaries when he sought to highlight the only real difference between him and the aged pro-war senators he was running against -- that he opposed the Iraq war before it began (by giving one speech in 2002 in which he belabored the point that he wasn't opposed to all wars, just "dumb" ones).
REP. EMANUEL: You can make--you could have made a case that Saddam Hussein was a threat, and what you could have done also, Tim, is worked with other countries, go through the U.N., take the time to do it. Again, the problems with our troops and the country today faces in Iraq isn't about whether we should or should not have gone to war, whether we should or should not have removed Saddam Hussein, it's how they have pursued this war, the lack of planning, the lack of processing, thinking about there was no plan, as you know, for after we removed Saddam Hussein, what would you do. There was no plan for--as you know, before war, you had to have an exit strategy. One has not even been annunciated. There's been a presumption that we were going to be greeted as liberators. There was a presumption this would be quick and easy, and then we can turn the country over. None of that has been laid out, and that has to do with the competency and the planning that goes in, and they did not have a plan for the day after "hostilities ended."
Funny how the progressive, anti-war candidate, Barack Obama, has no problem employing the same people who supported the United States illegally invading and occupying Iraq, while fighting all attempts to bring it to an end once it was clear it was an unmitigated disaster. Then again, as the newly launched official website for President-elect Obama -- the I-kid-you-not "Change.gov" -- makes clear, an Obama-Biden administration has absolutely no intention of ending the Iraq occupation:
Under the Obama-Biden plan, a residual force will remain in Iraq and in the region to conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions against al Qaeda in Iraq and to protect American diplomatic and civilian personnel. They will not build permanent bases in Iraq, but will continue efforts to train and support the Iraqi security forces as long as Iraqi leaders move toward political reconciliation and away from sectarianism.In other words, look for a President Obama to essentially continue the same policy as the Bush administration -- except U.S. liberals will fall over themselves to praise his intelligence and vision for the region.
With so little prospect for real change, Democratic partisans might want to consider Chris Floyd's recommended test for considering actions taken by an Obama administration:
"WIBDI: What If Bush Did It?"
This user-friendly analytical tool provides a quick and easy way of determining the value of any given policy while correcting one's perception for partisan bias. Simply take a particular action or proposal and submit it to the WIBDI test: If Bush did this, would you think it was OK? Or would you condemn it as the act of a warmonger, or a tyrant, or a corrupt corporate tool, etc.?Sadly, I fully expect most Democrats to embrace the warfare state under an Obama administration just as much as they claimed to oppose it under George Bush -- and reveling in denouncing those opposed as "anti-American". As William Safire might put it, we can probably look forward to at least four years of "Invade and Bomb with Obama and Rahm."
But at least now the prime time speeches announcing new bombing campaigns will be uplifting and eloquent, right?