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Politics

A List of Jobs Rahm Emanuel Has Been Bad At

White House staffer, mayor, freelance writer — he's terrible at all of them.

Photo: The Cable Show

Rahm Emanuel will not be the next Secretary of Transportation, even after a month of private and very public lobbying for the role.

That job will go to Pete Buttigieg, another baffling Biden cabinet pick who will presumably draw upon his vast experience fixing potholes in South Bend to run an executive department with an annual budget of $72.4 billion. But in case you were worried that a man who has done more than anyone in the past thirty years to harness the Democratic Party’s reputation for doing absolute fuck all might not get a job in his third consecutive Democratic administration, fear not. As Business Insider reported, Rahm is in the running for “high-level ambassadorships abroad”:

Emanuel is in discussions with the incoming president’s team about a range of roles, including “high-level ambassadorships abroad,” according to a source familiar with Biden’s appointments who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 

Emanuel expressed interest in ambassadorships, according to a former top Democratic administration official, after being informed he would not be getting the Department of Transportation top job.  His experience as former White House chief of staff to former President Barack Obama is a key reason he’s still in play.

As Obama wrote in his recently released memoir, he basically had to beg Rahm over and over again to be his chief of staff. Why he did this other than the classic excuse of “We’re both from Chicago” is a complete mystery. And for that reason, it’s apparently impossible to divorce this guy and his bullshit from the Democratic Party. “Undersecretary for Go Fuck Yourself” in the past, Ambassador for Telling Emmanuel Macron to Eat Shit and Die If He Even THINKS About Trying to Tax Apple a Little More in his future.

By the standards of the Biden cabinet and White House picks so far, it’s obvious that the president-elect is just trying to find a job for the guy at this point. By the standards of “Will these people be good at their job,” Rahm should never come within a thousand miles of power ever again. So let’s take a dive into some of his most notable jobs and how remarkably shitty he was at all of them.

White House senior adviser, 1993-1998

Emmanuel was a key member of Bill Clinton’s fundraising team in 1992 and then went on to join his White House as political director. Six months later, he was demoted to “director of special projects.” That Rahm didn’t quit the White House altogether is often referred to by friendly reporters as a sign of his resilience, but for the next five years, he went on to trumpet NAFTA—which along with the failed Clinton health care plan was a dagger that resulted in the realignment election of 1994and the crime bill. In 1996, Emanuel urged Clinton to jack up immigration hearings across the country in order to “claim and achieve record deportations of criminal aliens.” Great guy, great moral compass.

Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, 2006-2008

After a 14-month stint collecting a check as a director on the board of Freddie Mac (another great job there), Emanuel ran for Congress in 2002 and was easily elected to a safe Democratic seat in Chicago. His legislative career was fairly unremarkable, but before long he became chair of the DCCC, just in time for the backlash to the Iraq War to sweep Democrats into Congress.

Emanuel was hailed as the architect of the Democrats’ first House majority in 12 years. But Rahm purposefully sought out conservative candidates with the ability to self-fundraise, people who would go on to water down and kill the Obama administration’s agenda when it had a massive congressional majority before the Democrats lost it in 2010. (Does this sound familiar?) Anyone else was ignored by the DCCC, and sometimes they won without their help anyway, as Ryan Grim recounted for the Intercept in 2018.

White House chief of staff, 2009-2010

Emanuel left Congress to be Obama’s chief of staff, staying in that role until shortly before the aforementioned midterm bloodbath. As I wrote in my review of Obama’s book last week, Rahm was mostly completely fucking useless. He resisted using the energy of the left that had just swept Obama into power into helping further his agenda, and before Obama even got into a room with Republicans, Rahm played a major role in watering down the Recovery Act. He then left the White House five weeks before the election for his next job.

Mayor of Chicago, 2011-2019

Rahm’s eight-year mayorship of America’s third-largest city was an abject failure in so many ways that have already been recounted so many times including this very website. As my colleague Jack Mirkinson wrote last month:

Where even to begin? For starters, this is the man who, as mayor of Chicago, tried strenuously to cover up the police murder of Laquan McDonald. That—along with Emanuel’s generally sordid record on policing issues—is the most infamous stain on Emanuel’s legacy and it should be disqualifying even on its own. But it’s only part of an incredibly long string of failures during Emanuel’s mayoralty—many of which involved kowtowing to the rich at the expense of the rest of the city. 

After initially setting himself for a run at a third term, Rahm packed it in after realizing everyone outside of the Gold Coast hated his guts. Whoops.

Freelance writer, 2019-2020

In his gap year between politics jobs, Rahm quickly started taking up space in the nation’s media organizations. First he got a job as a contributing editor at The Atlantic, until a group Black staffers said fuck that, reportedly, in a letter to editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg:

The proper bounds of free inquiry and racial justice are subjects of constant contention in a free society, and we do not hope to settle those questions here. What is plainly true is that Mr. Emanuel used the conditions of a financial settlement with a grieving family to cover up the details of murder of a black teenager by a white police officer. Mr. Emanuel’s conduct defiles both principles beyond recognition and is the kind of behavior that news organizations of any ideological stripe expose rather than reward.

At the Washington Post, he wrote an op-ed about how Medicare for All is a “pipe dream” complete with a long lecture about how it’s a misguided political strategy not even a year after he had to pull the plug on his mayoralty for fear of getting humiliated. And at ABC News, he’s built up a great Punch and Judy routine with fellow giant asshole Chris Christie while smugly telling retail workers to learn to code.

Rahm Emanuel has been horrible at any job he’s ever had that doesn’t involve raising a bunch of money from corporate donors. There’s no need for him to be in the administration, the White House, the Foreign Service, or any other position in government where he’s involved in making decisions that impact the lives of other people. Stop giving him jobs!

In other words, he’ll will probably be our next Ambassador to Israel.