Rahm Emanuel: Obama's Enforcer?

By Kenneth J. Theisen
 
It has been three weeks since Obama won the election. Millions of people who voted for him still believe that Obama will be
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the "savior" who will rescue us from the fascist political direction begun by the Bush regime. But in one of his first actions Obama made it clear to anyone that is really looking, that despite promises of change, we are really only being shown a new face for old-fashioned U.S. imperialism. Right after the election, Obama announced that he had chosen
Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff. In this position Emanuel will be in charge of the day to day running of the White House and will be Obama's "gatekeeper" and "get it done guy." Emanuel is not an agent of change that is in the interests of the vast majority of people here or in the world.

Let us look at some of Emanuel's history that should give us an indication of where the Obama administration is headed.

The Clinton White House

Emanuel has had previous experience in the White House. From 1993 to 1998, he served as Bill Clinton's Assistant to the President for Political Affairs and then as Senior Advisor to the President for Policy and Strategy. In these roles he was instrumental in the passage of several major pieces of legislation during the Clinton years.

On behalf of Clinton he pushed through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) resulting in deeper penetration of American imperialism into both Mexico and Canada. He was responsible for so-called "welfare reform" which ended Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and destroyed the already frayed safety net for millions of children and families. He also got Congress to pass a draconian crime bill during the Clinton administration which put an additional 100,000 cops on the streets. Can we expect similar feats during the Obama years?

Supporter of Israeli State Terror

Emanuel's father was a member of Irgun, an Israeli terrorist group that operated in Palestine from 1931 to 1948. On July 22, 1946 Irgun killed 91 people in the bombing of the King David Hotel in Palestine. On April 9, 1948 Israeli Irgun terrorists massacred over one hundred Palestinian villagers in a despicable act of genocide in the village of Deir Yassin.  This was a part of a larger policy to terrorize Palestinians into leaving Palestine to save their lives and resulted in a massive exodus of Palestinians. No one should be branded with the "sins of their father." But Emanuel has continued his father's ardent support of Israeli state terrorism.

He has been a pro-Israel hardliner. Despite President Bush's almost unconditional support of Israel, in June 2003 Emanuel signed a congressional letter criticizing Bush for being too weak in his support of Israel. The letter supported Israel's policy of assassinating Palestinian political leaders, stating that the assassination policy "was clearly justified as an application of Israel's right to self-defense."

In July 2006 after Israel invaded Lebanon, Emanuel again defended Israeli aggression. He demanded that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki not be allowed to make a speech to Congress because Maliki had branded Israel's bombing of Lebanon as an act of aggression. On July 19th Emanuel made a speech supporting Israel's bombing of Lebanon, despite the fact that the bombings had caused thousands of civilian casualties.

Emanuel does not just confine his support of Israel to words. During the first Gulf War of 1990 he actually went to Israel as a volunteer for the Israeli army. He served in the Northern part of Israel during that war.

Supporter of the Iraq war and the so-called "war on terrorism"

Emanuel has also been an ardent supporter of the current Iraq war. He voted for the Iraq War resolution that gave Bush the authority to invade Iraq. When asked later on "Meet the Press" whether he would have voted the same way "knowing that there are no weapons of mass destruction," Emanuel affirmed he would have done so. He also voted to regularly fund the war and fought any effort to set a withdrawal timetable for U.S. troops.

In 2006, he wrote a book entitled, "The Plan, Big Ideas for America."  In it, he called for increasing the size of the U.S. military. "We need to fortify the military's 'thin green line' around the world by adding to the U.S. Special Forces and the Marines, and by expanding the U.S. army by 100,000 more troops."  (Obama has called for an increase of 92,000.) The book also called for the creation of a new domestic spying organization similar to Great Britain's MI5. He also supports mandatory paramilitary national service for everyone between the ages of 18 and 25.

In 2005 Emanuel voted to make the PATRIOT Act permanent. This year he helped craft a compromise on FISA that allowed the continuation of massive spying on all Americans and others by the NSA and other U.S. spy agencies. Of course Obama also supported the FISA legislation.

Favored pro-war candidates in 2006 elections

In the lead-up to the 2006 Congressional elections, Emanuel was the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). He went out of his way to select pro-war Democrat candidates and to support them in Democratic primary elections. Of the 22 candidates he selected, only one advocated immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq. (That candidate was from a very liberal district.) His DCCC denied funding and support to anti-war candidates. Despite this, only 8 of his selectees won their elections.  In a June 2006 congressional speech Emanuel pushed his pro-war agenda by stating, "The debate today is about whether the American people want to stay the course with an administration and a Congress that has walked away from its obligations or pursue a real strategy for success in the war on terror. " Democrats are determined to take the fight to the enemy." Emanuel took credit for the 2006 election successes of the Democrats. He was promoted to chairman of the Democratic Caucus, the fourth-highest ranking position in the House or Representatives.
 
The fox guarding the chicken house

One of the big problems that Obama faces as the incoming president is the financial crisis which was revealed when the so-called housing bubble burst. But do not worry, Emanuel has relevant experience. As Bill Clinton was leaving office in 2001, he appointed Emanuel to a seat on the Board of Directors of the quasi-governmental Freddie Mac. Yes one of the corporations that got the country into the financial crisis in the first place was led by Emanuel in 2000 and 2001.  The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight accused the board of Freddie Mac of having "failed in its duty to follow up on matters brought to its attention." According to a complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Freddie Mac misreported profits by billions of dollars in order to deceive investors between the years 2000 and 2002. As a director Emanuel was paid $31,060 in 2000 and $231,655 in 2001.

Also during Emanuel's tenure Freddie Mac was involved in a scandal regarding campaign contributions and accounting irregularities. In 2006, Freddie Mac was fined $3.8 million by the Federal Election Commission to settle claims that it illegally contributed to congressional candidates during the time when Emanuel was on the board and running for and then serving in Congress. In his run for the House in 2002, Emanuel received $25,000 in campaign contributions from Freddie Mac.
Earlier this year, after the loss of billions of dollars and in the face of collapse, Freddie Mac was taken over by the federal government after years of mismanagement and scandal.

But we can be assured that Emanuel is well-equipped to deal with the financial industry. In addition to his tenure with Freddie Mac, he has worked in the financial industry. In the two-and-a- half years before he ran for Congress, Emanuel worked as an investment banker in Chicago. He earned more than $16 million during this period. He also has many friends in the financial industry. Evidently the financial industry loves him. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, during the 2008 election cycle, Emanuel was the House's leading recipient of contributions "from hedge funds, private equity firms and the broader securities and investment industry."

Change or more of the same?

Obama has chosen Emanuel to head up his White House operations. But the new chief of staff's background hardly indicates that he will lead a charge for progressive changes. Instead the selection of Emanuel indicates continuing war and continuing financial ruin for the masses of people. World Can't Wait will continue to cover the creation of the Obama team and expose the backgrounds of his new cabinet, advisors, etc.

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World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.