When a new administration comes to office, especially one in which the leader, Barack Obama, has had no comparable executive experience, key staff often form a wall around the president that in time serves as a Palace Guard. In Obama's case his operation is controlled by his Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, the only insider with previous experience in the White House from the Clinton years.
Because Emmanuel also has had experience as a congressman, a board member of a major housing mortgage firm, an investment banker with extensive Wall Street contacts, a major political fund raiser and a liaison with special interest groups he pretty much serves as the de facto president where policy, press, congressional relations and political affairs are consolidated under his ironclad control.
It is an extraordinary concentration of power in one individual who is not the president. One must reach back to the Nixon presidency to find a comparable concentration of power under Nixon Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman though Emanuel exercises much more control over Treasury and foreign affairs than Haldeman was ever able to acquire.
No one gets to Obama without getting through Emmanuel and nothing gets done by the White House without his personal approval. The Obama White House is centered around Emanuel and the many Chicago cronies surrounding him on the president's staff. The Nixon White House was controlled by the California cronies of Haldeman.
Masters of remote power such as Emanuel use the power and resources of the White House to control the agenda of the president. Politically, he calls all the shots. From fund raising to political appearances of the president Obama does what Emanuel tells him to do. The reform of Wall Street, perhaps the largest single issue that could impact on the Wall Street mess, is the responsibility of Emanuel, not the Treasury or Commerce secretaries.
Health care reform is controlled by Emanuel, not experts in health and insurance. If a deal is to be made with the large pharmaceutical companies it is made by Emanuel, not Obama. Any negotiations with Wall Street flow through Emanuel because of his long association with Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street powerbrokers.
Middle east foreign policy flows through Emanuel because of his background as a Zionist and experience as a volunteer in the Israeli army, not through traditional channels such as the Secretary of State.
No where is the control more pronounced than in the political arena where all contact with special interests including Wall Street, health care, banks and unions all come calling to Emanuel to get their favors from Obama. White House records indicated that SEIU leader Andy Stern was in the White House 22 times since Obama took office. That might explain who coordinated the SEUI involvement in trying to control health care town hall meetings or how SEIU will get their payback for sinking $60.7 million into the Obama campaign. Watch for SEIU to have a clear field to organize the health care industry.
Even the resignation in the 23rd Congressional District seat in NY currently being contested is supposed to be the handiwork of Emanuel where he got Obama to appoint GOP Congressman John McHugh to the Secretary of the Army position in September, thus resigning the seat, then tried to get a Democrat elected to the seat in a clever manipulation of the New York election laws.
When Sarah Palin blew a giant hole in his plan by endorsing a third party conservative and leading a charge that forced out the weak GOP candidate, it is rumored the White House (Emanuel) got the GOP candidate who dropped out to endorse the Democratic candidate for the seat. The election Tuesday will decide whether Emanuel or Palin had the most power influencing the NY election.
As Emanuel continues to use the White House as his political playground and Obama continues to do his bidding it remains to be seen if Emanuel can avoid the temptation to increase control like proved to be Haldeman's undoing when he ordered the break in at Democratic Headquarters in the Watergate, a staff power grab that brought down the Nixon presidency.
Emanuel nearly made a similar error when he tried to get the Decennial Census put under the control of the White House thus giving him the power to control the reapportionment of the nation's congressional seats by controlling the census results. It was a move stopped by Congress. The Democrats in control of Congress may be unwilling to give up any more control to the Emanuel White House gang.
Still, his current control on behalf of the president of the Wall Street reforms and the health care reform makes the Democratic leadership in Congress pawns in Emanuel's master plans. His personnel decisions to load up the White House staff with czars tainted by radical backgrounds and his pit bull approach to managing the president will not make friends in Washington and can only hurt the young and beholden president who pledged transparency and openness, a far cry from what we got.
In the end the economy will be his undoing as he tries to protect the Wall Street executives with their bailouts and bonuses while trying to make it look like the president cares for "Main Street" and the traditional Democratic special interests. We have seen how that works. Emanuel slams through the auto bailout for the Michigan unions and the first new plant by the government owned auto companies is in Delaware, the home of VP Joe Biden, not Michigan or Ohio. Playing such political games will one day get exposed.