When is Rahm Emanuel leaving the White House? Reports vary. 

Over the weekend, the Daily Telegraph reported that a rift between Emanuel's so-called pragmatism and the idealism of President Obama's "inner circle" has created an impasse where though Emanuel, " enjoys a good working relationship with Mr Obama[,]they are understood to have reached an understanding that differences over style mean he will serve only half the full four-year term."

The source of frustration with Emanuel? "His abrasive style has rubbed some people the wrong way, while there has been frustration among Mr Obama's closest advisers that he failed to deliver a smooth ride for the president's legislative programme that his background promised."

But the very next, the White House dismissed the story vis Fox News, calling it "ludicrous". Acknowledging that the idea of an eighteen-month turn over for the President's Chief of Staff wouldn't even be remotely surprising, Matthew Yglesias notes that, "you won’t find much in the way of real evidence for the thesis of Alex Spillius’s Daily Telegraph article. Instead you seem to have one anonymous source who there’s no reason to believe has inside information."

But on Tuesday, Glenn Thrush of Politico issued a follow up article on the story that noted, “Friends and co-workers said he vacillates from day to day, sometimes minute to minute. He might leave in December after the midterms; or he might stay until next summer, depending on whether Daley runs or President Barack Obama asks him to stick around, they said.“

Whatever the truth of the timing, the later Emanuel’s departure the better for the White House.

Rahm Emanuel hasn't been a particularly popular pick for Chrif of Staff from day one. Though, everyone has acknowledged why, strategically, his appointment made a lot of sense. But Emanuel's gruff demeanor has always seemed a bit at odds with the fairy tale narrative of Obama's campaign and presidency.

That juxtaposition is precisely why it is so important for Obama to keep Emanuel around.

Despite the fact that Emanuel was one of the key players in killing the inclusion of a public option in the administration's health care reform a bill, a move that I thought was a real mistake in terms of rallying important support for the bill, I like Emanuel and think he plays a vital role in the White House. And I mean that above and beyond the obvious importance of the position he currently fulfills.

What Rahm Emanuel gets is that politics is a bloodsport. It's not intended for the faint of heart. And whether one agrees with the particular line of reasoning that Emanuel is proposing at any given time or not, you can appreciate that the rhetorical pugilism in which you're engaged with Rahm is real and sincere. Bare knuckles as it may be, the Rahm Emanuel brand of politics is, in fact, one in which things get done and they generally get done in a way about which people can feel at least marginally good.

Good fight. Too bad I lost. I'll get that bastard next time.

Political boxing with Rahm Emanuel is basically all the up and up. You know what you're getting into and you know it is going to be pretty rough and tumble. In short, you know where you stand and you generally don't have to wonder about whether Rahm means what he says and says what he means. He means it and he said it. Period.

This is politics as a described in my last post. Vicious, but openly and unabashedly so.

Rahm Emanuel's style of politics stands in sharp contradiction to the increasing disenchantment that many feel with the so-called "idealism" of Barack Obama's politics. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, the Obama administration approach to US politics seems to be to carry forward with the knack the President's campaign to be all things to all people. Ultimately, though, this approach pleases no one, or at least leaves a lot of parties fairly disgruntled.

Not only did you not get what you want out of a particular course of action, but you somehow came away from your interactions with the administration feeling like they were on your side. Only;y to find out in the end that that was all part of a bipartisan effort to get things done. A sort of shell game with a big smile. Aren't you glad you "contributed" to that process? Now you're part of history, too!

The willingness of different parties to engage in and be constructive participants in this process seems to be dwindling as time goes by. And the more idealists and the fewer Rahm Emanuels surround the President, the more administration inches closer to resemble the hyper destructive echo chamber of its predecessor. Which is not to conflate the Bush and Obama administrations in intent or even ultimately practice. But it is to note the degree to which each administration fell into its own trap of convincing itself of the inherent rightness of its ideas and positions.

I'm far more inclined to agree with the Obama administration's positions than the Bush administration's position, but in either case cocooning is a recipe for disaster. I am becoming increasingly concerned that the Obama administration is inadvertently crossing one of its campaign's strongest points -- hearing and actually considering divergent viewpoints -- all in the name of the idealism on whose shoulders it was delivered to victory.

Perhaps ironically, Rahm Emanuel's approach to politics stands to lend the administration a degree of legitimacy it increasingly needs. And after the mid-term elections, if polls bear out their current predictions, the Obama administration will need Emanuel even more than they do right now, not less.

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Scott Payne

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