Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
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.