By Matthew Rothschild on January 20, 2010

Barack Obama should fire Rahm Emanuel today.

He has not served the President well as chief of staff.

One year ago, Obama took the oath of office riding a wave of goodwill. In the next six weeks, his popularity continued to soar. But now it’s hit bottom, and so have the Democratic prospects, after the debacle in Massachusetts.

Rahm Emanuel is responsible for a lot of this free fall.

Emanuel is a DLC Democrat, and he’s advised Obama to go in a DLC direction time and time again—and to disregard the progressive base.

On health care, Emanuel kept insisting that the public option was not very important. He helped engineer the under-the-table deal with the drug companies. He let Max Baucus dillydally, rather than push hard for a vote before last summer. And then he and Obama bent over backwards to placate Senators Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman rather than force a vote, via the reconciliation process, on a decent progressive health care bill.

“The only non-negotiable principle is success,” Emanuel likes to say. But that’s the very definition of being unprincipled. And by being unprincipled, he’s delivered defeat.

On the economy, the all-important issue, Emanuel urged Obama to disregard the advice of Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, two Nobel Prize-winning liberal economists, who publicly predicted that we’d have 10 percent unemployment by now if Obama didn’t propose a bigger stimulus package last spring. Emanuel and Obama’s other political advisers said the pricetag was too high.

Now Obama is paying for it.

Of course, Obama chose Emanuel for the job, and Emanuel may only be guilty of carrying out his boss’s wishes.

But Obama can’t fire himself. And he needs a chief of staff with the wisdom to help point him down a bold, progressive path. The Emanuel path is a dead end.

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine. To subscribe for just $14.97 a year, just click here.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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