...When George Bush and Dick Cheney left office as two of the most despised American political figures of the last century -- and Barack Obama was hailed as the new, shiny, popular wielder of power -- the Beltway media parroted the sentiment. Until recently, when Obama became weakened and conservatives appeared rejuvenated, Beltway media treatment of the new President was largely deferential, while the Bush/Cheney era was treated as an embarrassing, "American-values"-violating disgrace to be stuffed away in the attic and forgotten entirely (Look to the Future, Not the Past!). The Democrats were now in power and their opponents were rejected, and thus the dominant Beltway mindset was (as always) to praise and serve the new King and his court while feigning opposition to the deposed. The ethos had shifted, and therefore, so did the words issuing from Beltway mouths. The same media that spent years hailing Bush officials as the Serious, Strong Adult Leaders and mocking Democrats as hapless losers simply reversed the script, to dutifully fulfill their central role as spokespeople-servants to those who wield political power.
But the reality was the opposite: the same Beltway media that cheered on those Bush/Cheney "values-violating" policies while they were being implemented still believe in those policies and yearn for them. That's why it's possible to open the The Washington Post and see that Rahm Emanuel is openly boasting to his stenographers that he has been counseling adherence to those policies and to read Beltway mavens like Milbank now insist that Obama must stop deviating from the Bush/Cheney template. The Washington media script was (at least temporarily) re-written as of January 20, 2009, but their belief system -- which cheered on and enabled the horror show of the prior eight years -- most certainly did not. To placate an angry public and to serve their new Washington rulers, they pretended to find Bush and Cheney ever so distasteful, all while continuing to love and insist upon the very policies that defined them...
I won't dignify his lovefest over at The Washington Company Pravda with a link, but fittingly Dan Froomkin takes him- and both Dana Milbank'z and Jason Horowitz'z suck-up pieces down:
...Emanuel is not the would-be savior of this presidency. For one thing, there really isn't that much daylight between him and his boss, or between him and his top White House colleagues. Had things gone even more his way, it's possible that he would have squelched a few more of what few bursts of idealism and principle survived Inauguration. But people looking for the reasons why the Obama presidency has not lived up to its promise won't find the answer amid the minor rifts between key players. Nor will they find the answer in how well or poorly this White House has played the game of politics. The fact is that after a campaign that appealed so successfully to idealism, Obama hired a bunch of saboteurs of hope and change.
Rahm was simply their chief of staff. And now, this hypercompetitive bantam rooster is attempting to blame others for what went wrong. That's evidently so important to him that he's trying to take a victory lap around the wreckage of what was once such a promising presidency.
Emanuel's greatest "victory" before this one, of course, was the one upon which he earned his reputation: Getting a bunch of conserva-Dems elected in purple states in 2006, winning the party control of the House while at the same time crippling its progressive agenda. This is what Emanuel is all about. For him, victory is everything -- even if you have to give up your core values to win, and even if you could have won while sticking to them.
The Rahm Emanuel that Obama hired is the poster child for the timid, pseudo-pragmatism that is inimical to the idealistic Obama agenda so many excited voters responded to last November. And it's a pragmatism that is absolutely killing the Democratic Party in the long run, because American voters have an intrinsic distrust of politicians they see as tacking with the polls or shying away from a fight. This if nothing else is the lesson of two George W. Bush presidencies: American voters have a profoundly soft spot for people with clear, strongly-held principles, almost regardless of what those principles are.
Emanuel is a Bush Democrat - but not in that he has learned the lesson about the value of holding firmly to core values. He is a Bush Democrat in that he has allowed Republicans to traumatize him into submission. Emanuel operates on a battlefield as defined by Republicans, where the terrain is littered with the specter of imaginary but profoundly terrifying GOP attack ads. His reflexive approach is the strategic retreat. Most obviously in the current debate about health care, he has empowered the Democratic and centrist Republican obstructionists by validating their fear that come campaign time, they will be portrayed as radical -- even when they are supporting measures such as the public insurance option that have public support among a super-majority of voters.
According to the Washington Post, the ultimate "vindication" of Emanuel's "reasonableness" is found in the advice he gave his boss about the treatment of detainees -- one of the most horrifying, illegal and immoral legacies left by the previous administration. Milbank portrays his protagonist nothing short of heroically: "Emanuel bitterly opposed former White House counsel Greg Craig's effort to close the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year, arguing that it wasn't politically feasible. Obama overruled Emanuel, the deadline wasn't met, and Republicans pounced on the president and the Democrats for trying to bring terrorists to U.S. prisons. Likewise, Emanuel fought fiercely against Attorney General Eric Holder's plan to send Khalid Sheik Mohammed to New York for a trial. Emanuel lost, and the result was another political fiasco."
According to Horowitz: "Emanuel made his case to Obama, articulating the political dangers of a civilian trial to congressional Democrats. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. presented a counterargument rooted in principle, for civilian trials."
The obvious conclusion: Obama should have taken Emanuel's advice, based on pure political calculation, rather than heeding the foolhardy, deeply-held ethical, legal and moral arguments made by his top legal advisers. The Post's endorsement of this argument is nothing short of obscene. It embraces rather than condemns the notion that political considerations should legitimately trump all others. It is the Post's endorsement of Karl Rovism..
Indeed, the most remarkable spectacle here is the ease with which Emanuel has been able to find reliable vessels to carry his water. Oh, to see his media speed-dial, and its collection of nattering process junkies, smug contrarians, split-the-difference stenographers, center-worshipping priests of High Broderism and corporatist cocktail-partiers who enable Emanuel's brand of soulless political gamesmanship.
To Emanuel, victory is the only thing, and rather than recognize the error of his ways and recalibrate, he is publicly declaring that the now widely-recognized enfeeblement of his boss's presidency is not his failure, but his vindication. Hail Emanuel triumphant.
It's not that Rahm found media sources to carry his water. The people that own Rahm found media sources to promote their chief agent in Washington. Intelligent, articulate, agressive, manipulative, and totally owned by the Company that made him, he would have doubtless held much the same position if Hillary had won in 2008.
And if McCain had won? The Rahmmer would have stayed in the House, sticking his shiv in the back of every progressive measure that tried to get past him. For the good of the Party, of course. The Party of Money.