Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rahm Emanuel Notes

Management is how I paid the rent all my life. It's what I did and I was good. No one needed to tell me because I knew. Management, like politics, is the art of the possible. My job was very small potatoes, but my potato patch was very well-run. The reason I know is when I visit my cafeteria years after leaving I find the same excellent staff that I left behind, still doing good work for a new boss. Employees I hired and retained still work for the same company decades later. That's all the evidence I need.

I became an Obama supporter because I like his management style. Chosing the right people are the most important decisions he makes. In addition to that gift, two or three original ideas a year will put him light years ahead of others. His choices between now and January will have a greater impact on the coming years than any other decisions he will make as president. I wish more people could grasp that simple idea.

Here are two links to must-read/ must-see sources for anyone seeking to understand Rahm Emanual (and so one dimension of Barack Obama's multi-faceted mind).

C-SPAN replayed last week Roast of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) (September 20, 2005).
Good luck finding it. I can't figure out how to link to a specific video file without going through the main page. It's listed at the moment under "recent programs" but when it is no longer "recent" it may vanish. I dunno.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) was honored in September of 2005 for his work with Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) and his commitment to finding a cure for epilepsy. Among the speakers at the event were Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT).

The event was introduced by Susan Axelrod, wife of David Axelrod, one of Obama's closest advisors. Their interest in epilepsy is deeply personal because they have a child who is a victim of this terrible disorder, the effects of which can range from treatable snd benign to untreatable to the point of death. The event runs an hour and fifty minutes, but it is worth watching to help understand the backstories of both Barack Obama and Rahm Emanual. It is no accident that stem-cell research appears as an early priority for the new administration. (I'm not sure but this may be the "baby-killing" I heard about from shrill critics before the election.)

Obama's remarks appear a 44 minutes.

Rahm Emanuel's remarks are at the end, 1:54, but the real meat of the evening is buried in the remarks of the guests who "roasted" him. My favorite was someone's description of him as someone who would not stab you in the back. He won't go behind your back, he'll stab you in the stomach. But through it all he comes across as a very cunning operator allied with and respected by all the right people.

A reading recommendation comes from Foreigh Policy Magazines "Must-Reads" a New York Times piece The Brothers Emanuel by ELISABETH BUMILLER, Published: June 15, 1997 .

It prints out to six or seven pages and I am about to read it entirely at my leisure. A few snips have already caught my eye.

...Rahm Emanuel is, at 37, one of the most powerful people at the White House. [this was written over ten years ago.] He is also the middle brother of two similar tank commanders: Ariel Emanuel, 36, a relentless Hollwyood television agent who left International Creative Management under cover of darkness to create a rival firm, and Ezekiel Emanuel, 39, an oncologist (with a doctorate in political theory) who is a nationally known medical ethicist at Harvard and a leading opponent of assisted suicide.
Together, Emanuel Freres are a triumvirate for the 90's. All are rising stars in three of America's most high-profile and combative professions. All understand and enjoy power, and know how using it behind the scenes can change the way people think, live and die. All have been called obnoxious, arrogant, aggressive, passionate and committed. All three get up before dawn. All are the sons of an Israeli father, now a 70-year-old Chicago pediatrician, who passed secret codes for Menachem Begin's underground. Iregun, and an American Jewish mother, who worked in the civil rights movement and owned, briefly, a Chicago rock-and-roll club. All three also worry about a less successful Emanuel: Shoshana, 23, their adoptive siser, who crash-landed into the family at the age of 8 days, when the brothers were in their teens.
The Boys went to summer camp in Israel, and reveled in the family lore: in 1933, after their uncle Emanuel Auerbach was killed in a skirmish with Arabs in Jerusalem, the family changed its last name to his first, as a tribute. Political passions always ran deep. Raham still remembers the time his mother and her father got into such a furious argument at the dinner tble over Henry Wallace and the 1948 split of the Democratic Party - a quarter century after the fact - that father threw daughter out of the house. ''And it was her house,'' Rahm says. ''I thought, 'This is nutty.' ''

This is delightful stuff and I'm looking forward to reading it in depth.

Somewhere in the C-CPAN roast video someone made mention of Rahm Emanuel's time in the IDF, the Israeli Defense Force. Instantly I had a flash of Obama's reference to some yet to be defined "civilian defense" to augment the traditional branches of the Defense Department. It was an aha moment for me because I have thought and written about a return of the military draft since I began blogging.

Those with reservations about Obama's position regarding Israel need to take note. He has not only named Rahm Emanuel, whose Israeli credentials look pretty impressive to me, as his top gun, he seems to be contemplating something like Israel's model of national service for young people applied in the USA.

We already have the National Guard, organized under individual state authorities with state governors as their respective commanders in chief. But where were those forces when needed to come to the assistance of hurricane victims in Louisiana or Texas, or fight fires in California? Away at war, maybe?

So what would be the downside of a true, even larger "National" guard, federal in concept, consisting of trained reserves to be called to acive duty when needed, but spending most of their time at civilian employment? How will flag-waving, pro-guns, super-patriots come to terms with that?

The Army National Guard (ARNG) is one component of The Army (which consists of the Active Army, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve.) The Army National Guard is composed primarily of traditional Guardsmen -- civilians who serve their country, state and community on a part-time basis (usually one weekend each month and two weeks during the summer.) Each state, territory and the District of Columbia has its own National Guard, as provided for by the Constitution of the United States.

The National Guard has a unique dual mission that consists of both Federal and State roles. For state missions, the governor, through the state Adjutant General, commands Guard forces. The governor can call the National Guard into action during local or statewide emergencies, such as storms, fires, earthquakes or civil disturbances. [ed. when available]

In addition, the President of the United States can activate the National Guard for participation in federal missions. Examples of federal activations include Guard units deployed to Kosovo and the Sinai for stabilization operations, and units deployed to the Middle East and other locations in the war on terrorism. When federalized, Guard units are commanded by the Combatant Commander of the theatre in which they are operating.

Did somebody say something about jobs? Lots of jobs?

Hmm. Just thinking out loud.

Update, same day...

Woo-hoo! Seems like Mr. Emanuel did an interview a couple of years ago outlining what may be Obama's "civilian service" model. Looks like the National Guard to me. Here's a link to the video/audio... replete with snarky captions underscoring the most frightening parts of the transcript, as well as a couple of editorial additions.

The folks at Red Tide are among many who have the link. (Interesting. Their http handle is "massachusetts for huckabee.") The comments thread at Gateway Pundit has a few people scrooched up over the notion of mandatory national service.

Those of us drafted over forty years ago didn't like the idea either but we had to go along. And we who didn't get killed have had forty years to think it over. I find it amusing that those on the right seem to be having trouble with the concept.

I registered as a conscientious objector which sealed my MOS as a medical corpsman. That option is still on the books for those who have objections to bearing arms. If such a plan goes through we'll have a chance to see how patriotism plays out when the rubber hits the road.

Yo, Patriots. How ya'll feel about putting young people where your mouths have been? I don't think it's a bad idea at all. With the economy and unemployment at historic bad places this could kill two birds with one stone. Er, excuse me...sorry about that...poor figure of speech.


ilona said...

Patriotism and service is one thing, mandates which control the lives of an entire generation are another. It isn't the draft of fighting men, and we aren't Israel. Israel has an entirely different situation- a small island surrounded by enemies who are active and intent upon her destruction. The USA is in quite a different prospect.

The result of enforced "civilian service" might sound pretty to your ears right now, but the potential for abuse is enormous.

In one way I am surprised that someone who exercised conscientious objection could feel that this is such a benign prospect. You know, that option was hard won at the cost of some sacrifice by those who had religious reasons to protest fighting service.

What options are there for individual freedoms in this brave new civilian service? What if the service isn't something beneficent like helping hurricane victims? What is there to keep it from being utilized in a way that governments are genius at thinking up? Much less beneficent, much more nefarious?

Just asking.

Hoots said...

Thanks for visiting, Ilona, and thanks for the comment. I get very few, you know. It's lonely out here at the lunatic fringe.

You raise good and valid questions, all of which I have thought about a lot. That notion of "mandates which control the lives of an entire generation" is a good place to begin. The reasons that I had my draft status changed before I was twenty were in response to such a mandate, a misbegotten war in Southeast Asia that did, in fact, control the lives of a generation.

Along with the rest of my peers I faced several options: submit to the mandate, relocate to Canada, or become a "non-cooperator" spending time in prison, none of which I found attractive. Fortunately the same authorities which fashion the mandate provide several less odious alternatives: exemptions for certain professions as well as two CO categories, 1-A-O (non-combatant in uniform) and 1-O (non-combatant serving in some approved civilian capacity).

I doubt that anyone, even Barack Obama at his most charismatic, could succeed in retracting those alternatives.

When you couple that word "brave" with "new civilian service" it certainly invokes Huxley's worst dystopian images. I won't argue that such outcomes are impossible, but I think such fear-mongering is premature ten days after an election and way off from any specific legislative proposals. I am not blind to slippery slope arguments, but at this moment, having had about all I can stomach of excesses by Washington's most recent infestation of Godly moralists, I am willing to take the risk.

Incidentally, I think that business about "religious reasons to protest fighting service" should be up for discussion. There are plenty of non-religious reasons that should be honored, but I learned years ago that those who do not cradle their applications in religious language will likely have those applications denied. [See "Godly moralists" above.] It strikes me as a contradiction that religious thinkers advancing the "just war" concept are often not ecumenical enough to allow non-religious motives for doing good or refusing to do wrong. Such a stand does violence to the non-religious conscience. And yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a non-religious conscience.

BTW, Ilona, all that sarcasm is not aimed at you personally. Looking over what came out, I realize this sounds harsh, but I have waited over forty years for what I expect to happen with the Obama presidency. He's gonna hurt a lot of feelings, but so far mine are still unbruised. The main point of my post is to underscore his management abilities.

Ilona said...

:) I don't take this personally- and even if I should at some point- that wouldn't keep me from a good discussion!
You were a conscientious objector in that time, and I was active in the Moratorium Movement. We shared many of the same convictions during that time of our lives. I respect your choice, feel I understand it, and in no way criticize you on that basis.

I do however find something more than slippery slopes in this present view you are expressing- so let's look at that.

Raising those "CO categories, 1-A-O (non-combatant in uniform) and 1-O" as some from of assurance doesn't apply here. To perform such service doesn't exempt someone in what is being proposed in this "civilian defense" corps and we are far down the road in a loss of individual liberty at this point than we rhetorically warned against in those far off years of the '70s. We do not have the same basis for religious objection today, for example.

I did invoke Huxley. Purposely. The specter I did not invoke, but can...because it is more than argument, but based in real parallel, is the Nazi Regime Era. Not because I fear Obama, I don't. It is well meaning men like him, though, that can pave the way for Hitlers (if we allow for misguided invitation of this Trojan horse). Along with some of the circumstances that are formulaic for tyrants: instability in government, economic hardship, etc.

I am not predicting a totalitarian event, I am saying that to put the type of civilian youth force into play is a huge step towards something that can turn very dangerous. You say you are willing to take that risk. I would like you to reconsider that.
Please excuse me when I point out that the way you phrased your willingness for that risk is... reactionary. I love you, Hoots, but if it is in response to what you are sick of... than it is just reactionary to that circumstance and not at all predicated upon what is for the general cause of maintaining a free society.

I think Emanuel sees his idea from the Israeli model. I don't believe such a model works here, nor will it function in the same way. How ironic that it has parallels with the Hitler Youth Corps:
"The "Hitlerjugend", or "Hitler Youth" Party was far more than just a wholesome young people's activities agency: it was the para-military training bed for a generation of soldiers and "True Believers" for the Third Reich."
Think about this. Please.

"there is such a thing as a non-religious conscience."
Darlin', I would never argue otherwise. It is my understanding that the objector status came about through the religious protest of Quakers and other pacifist Believers.

There is more that we could discuss in what you said in that paragraph. for one thing... I am very cloudy on the "just war" concept. Just as in justified... there being rational reason to go to war, or just in the sense of righteous? The latter would be so rare as to almost not exist.

To be very clear, though, I have no intentions of characterizing Obama in negative derogatory terms. I think it is very damaging to paint a president that way. to a certain extent there should be respect for the office. I think bush's enemies took it too far, and that Obama will reap some of the bitter fruit of it when events challenge him. In this present set of crisis, I don't see how he can avoid it. I think we should try to support him in the positive things he attempts.

Unfortunately I don't see this Youth Corps idea as positive. Not at this time, in this way, without very strict balancing controls (if even such things were possible). Any kind of draft is a bad idea in my opinion.

Obama's management abilities are a neutral... it really depends on what those abilities put in place. those things will not be neutral- they will be evil or good. and in the final matter it is up to "The People" to give direction on what is for their good.So we better consider things carefully, before putting our approval and voice behind them.

Hoots said...

Thanks for that thoughtful reply. I don't think we are too far apart. And within a few hours of my comment above I got a Fact item addressing the subject directly. The next day I put up a clarification tagged Obama's "civilian national security force" Explained.

Your point that Rahm Emanuel sees the notion through an Israeli lens seems right to me. And I agree that such a model would plainly not work the same in the US. Geography, for one thing, makes it impossible for us to see enemies face to face. Our reliance on leaders to tell us who they are and how they work is very different from living with the danger of incoming rockets and suicide killers. That alone underscores the possibility that a "Youth Corps" could easily go badly off in a zealous wrong direction. I'm thinking here, too, of Mao's Cultural Revolution which was energized by the same dynamic and may have been more devastating to that country than Hitler's Youth did to Germany.

But it is clear to me that Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel are very different people. I just listened to someone on Morning Edition (Yes, I drink the kool-aid there...been doing it for years.) noting that the president-elect isn't the same "hard left" creature that many had either hoped (or feared) he was but is surrounding himself with people with a wide range of ideas from whom he "cherry-picks" what seems practical, regardless of where the idea originated. All of which is to say that Obama's aim seems to be more along the lines of beefing up existing service opportunities, not creating another one. In context, this is what Obama (not Rahm Emanuel) said:

We will enlist our veterans to find jobs and support for other vets, and to be there for our military families. And we're going to grow our Foreign Service, open consulates that have been shuttered and double the size of the Peace Corps by 2011 to renew our diplomacy. We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set.

We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded. We need to use technology to connect people to service. We'll expand USA Freedom Corps to create online networks where American can browse opportunities to volunteer. You'll be able to search by category, time commitment and skill sets. You'll be able to rate service opportunities, build service networks, and create your own service pages to track your hours and activities.

About "just wars" I didn't make up the phrase. It's short-hand for a corpus of theological arguments that have struggled with the notion since the Middle Ages. I brushed up against a modern reference to Just War Theory a couple of times since the Iraq war started. Homework time is from four years ago and is tedious and long, but it goes to the core of the argument.

My hope is that as the newly installed president gets into office arguments rushing to Godwin's Law will slow down a bit. I live in Georgia where at this writing a run-off for a Senate seat is bringing out some of the ugliest of racist sentiments. Obama may have received a majority of white votes nationally, but I can tell you that he didn't do all that well here. Talk of Nazis and the like simply fans the flames of bigotry where the smoldering embers of the KKK remain ready to burst into flame. Polite people don't speak openly about such matters, but not everyone down heah is all that po-lite.

Politics does make for strange bedfellows. In the same manner that bootleggers and church-goers conspired together to make their counties "dry" (for very different reasons) we now have a situation where racists and single-issue church-goers find themselves also on the same side (again for very different reasons). (I'm referring, of course, to the abortion debate, which would characterize all Democrats as baby-killers.) In this case the racists have allies in the crowd that fears an American Hitler Youth Movement and a drift to "Socialism" no matter what color the people are whom they fear.

Hoots said...

Oops, wrong link.

That first link should be Obama's "civilian national security force" Explained.

ilona said...

I did a little research myself- out of curiousity. It seems that the "Just war" theory surfaced around the time of Justinian to rationalize fighting wars for Christians.

The bedfellows thing is a phenomenon peculiar to politics- it also was at work when the ACLU aligned with conservative Christians on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act a decade ago.

On the civilian service idea- let's just say I stand in deep skepticism as to its feasibility.

I know what you mean about raising the "Nazi" parallel and the buzz that creates- but when it is an actual application one shouldn't flinch from it. IMO.

My kids have moved to Ga. and at least one of them voted Obama. My feeling is that Obama will care enough about the country that he will seek to do the right thing. That often is at odds with campaign rhetoric.

However you look at it, 2009 is stacking up to be a rough year, and it was going to be no matter who entered the oval office. What concerned me, and still does is judicial activism. Obama will appoint some of the judges and it is through judicial activism that we have lost important freedoms- just not sure where all this mix of ideas and ideals is taking us.

ah well... just had to put in two cents on the coupling of civilian youth corps and your challenge to "patriotism". I imagine we are not too far apart, as you said - I like to think this is the case with reasonable people.