The Back Story
Following his victory, Obama, in what is starting to look like an Achilles Heel of epic proportions, bends over backwards to find common ground between the warring factions of the Democratic Party. The result? Dean is shown the door. Emanuel is brought in as Chief of Staff. Clinton gets a cabinet position. Former Clinton soldiers like Panetta are brought in, but not independent thinkers like Reich. Some new faces from Chicago also show up, along with some new faces from the Ivys.
This is not a real shock. In fact, it sounds reasonable. The new guy in town had a mandate but no real clout. A reasonable person would be looking for ways to avoid the mistake Carter made by remaining an outsider once he arrived. So far, so good.
The honeymoon ends and things start running off the rails. That's when the tail starts wagging the dog. Instead of protecting the president's back, people start covering their own rear ends. Rahm Emanuel goes from hatchet man to lightning rod to Cassandra. In other words, this player has managed to play the media so he can manage his image.
When the famously acerbic Emanuel was first brought in, the guy was going to be Obama's Cheney. He was going to be the guy who knew where all the bodies were buried and which arms to twist so his BOSS could get his way. For some reason, that didn't happen in the legislature. Even with leaders willing to help.
Rahm's boss said he wanted his centerpiece legislative victory on his desk to sign by August. Remember the summer? The noise? The rancor? The loss of momentum? Where was Rahm then? I don't recall him ridiculing the teabaggers. I don't recall him blasting the obstructionists. I don't recall him saying much of anything at all except that progressives who wanted to target regressive Democrats were "f*cking retarded" for daring to press the agenda we were sold. Pushing the platform Obama ran on was supposedly Rahm's job. He became the lightning rod of disillusioned former supporters because he was not effective in doing that. Adding insult to injury, he actively discouraged people who still believed the agenda they'd been sold.
As we hit the one-year mark and fundamental health care reform continued to slip from our grasp, rumors started floating about a shake up in the White House. Rahm's name got put into the mix. People began whispering about his imminent departure. That's the kind of talk that ruins a future lobbyist's potential income. Can't have that. So what do we do? Rally our buddies to develop a "contrarian narrative" that paints us as the victim.
"...in the search for what has gone wrong, influential Democrats are -- in unusually frank terms -- blaming Obama ... for not listening to Emanuel."
That uppity muthafucka. How dare he ignore the sage advice of his Chief of Staff? What's wrong with that boy? Why won't that radical socialist listen to the voice of reason?
Here's the art of image management as naked as a newborn babe. First, create a false frame to support your narrative. Want a prime example? Look no further than the recent front page article in the Washington Post by Jason Horowitz.
Exhibit A: The headline
Obama's 'enforcer' may also be his voice of reason.
Follow the article inside and the headline becomes even more ludicrous.
Emanuel is voice of reason, and Obama should listen, insiders say. [emph added]
Given a choice between Barack "No Drama" Obama and Rahm "He's Dead To Me!" Emanuel, they decided "the voice of reason" was Rahm Emanuel? Really?
Next step, make a bold assertion before the frame can be challenged. Then, drop a quote in that sounds like it supports your assertion. For example, make an assertion that unnamed "influential Democrats" are blaming Obama for not listening to Emanuel, then follow that with a generic quote from a Democrat for attribution (Wasserman Schultz). Don't mention she is a DLC heart throb. Just let her say
I think that Rahm's considerable legislative experience translates into advice that the president should heed.