Reporting on the appointment of Rep. Rahm Emanuel as President-elect Barack Obama's White House chief of staff, Reuters quoted RNC spokesman Alex Conant's assertion that Obama's choice of Emanuel "undermines his promise to 'heal the divides.' " But Reuters did not note that Republicans have reportedly praised Emanuel, including Sen. Lindsey Graham who said that he is "a wise choice" and that he "understands the need to work together."
In its November 6 article on the appointment of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) as President-elect Barack Obama's White House chief of staff, Reuters quoted Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant's assertion that "Barack Obama's first decision as President-elect undermines his promise to 'heal the divides.' Rahm Emanuel is a partisan leader who played a lead role in breaking Washington." However, Reuters did not note that other Republicans have reportedly praised Emanuel, including former McCain campaign co-chair Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who stated that Emanuel is "a wise choice" and that he "understands the need to work together."
By contrast, several media reports included quotes from Republicans praising Emanuel. For instance, The Washington Times reported that "Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and one of Mr. McCain's closest allies in the presidential campaign, said the Emanuel pick was 'wise,' " and quoted Graham saying, "Rahm knows Capitol Hill and has great political skills. He can be a tough partisan but also understands the need to work together." The San Francisco Chronicle quoted Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) saying, "I can't think of a better choice. What's the old saying? You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose? (Rahm) understands the poetry, but he can translate it into prose. He is a practical guy who understands politics as well as policy. ... He can be a hard-core partisan when he has to be, but that's part of the game."
Additionally, Bloomberg reported that Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL) said of Emanuel: "This idea that Rahm is a guy who can't get along with Republicans is just not true. ... The truth is in politics, you can count your friends on one or two hands, but he's been a true friend.'' Bloomberg also quoted LaHood as saying of Emanuel, "The idea that he's just a trash-talking, hard-core Chicago pol does not reflect who the man really is.''
Media Matters for America noted that during the November 6 broadcast of ABC's World News, senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper reported that Obama's selection of Emanuel "prompted criticism from some Republicans" and quoted Boehner's response without noting Graham's praise.
From the November 6 Reuters article:
Emanuel, a combative 48-year-old Democratic congressman from Illinois who is a veteran of President Bill Clinton's White House, is close to Obama and to many members of his inner circle.
Some Republicans were quick to criticize Obama for his decision, pointing out that Obama had promised to improve relations between the two parties.
"Barack Obama's first decision as President-elect undermines his promise to 'heal the divides'," said Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant. "Rahm Emanuel is a partisan insider who played a lead role in breaking Washington."
In his statement, Obama addressed the issue of Emanuel's experience in Washington.
From the November 7 Washington Times article:
Some Republicans criticized Mr. Obama's selection. The Republican National Committee drew attention to Mr. Emanuel's fearsome, take-no-prisoners reputation, which earned him the nickname "Rahmbo."
"Rahm Emanuel is a partisan insider who played a lead role in breaking Washington," RNC spokesman Alex Conant said. "Our nation will be ill-served if Obama runs the White House the way 'Rahmbo' ran the Democratic Congress."
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, called it an "ironic" choice, given Mr. Obama's promises to transcend partisanship.
Mr. Emanuel sought to extend an olive branch to the House Republicans, who he said "serve with dignity, decency and a deep sense of patriotism."
"We often disagree, but I respect their motives," Mr. Emanuel said. "Now is a time for unity, and, Mr. President-elect, I will do everything in my power to help you stitch together the frayed fabric of our politics, and help summon Americans of both parties to unite in common purpose."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and one of Mr. McCain's closest allies in the presidential campaign, said the Emanuel pick was "wise."
"Rahm knows Capitol Hill and has great political skills. He can be a tough partisan but also understands the need to work together," Mr. Graham said.
From the November 7 Bloomberg article:
Obama praised Emanuel, 48, a wiry tough guy who also dances ballet and whose slender build belies a muscular intensity. Republicans expressed skepticism.
"I announce this appointment first because the chief of staff is central to the ability of a president and administration to accomplish an agenda,'' Obama said in a statement. "And no one I know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel.''
It is how Emanuel gets things done that has sparked numerous battles with Republicans. "This is an ironic choice for a president-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil, and govern from the center,'' said Representative John Boehner, the House Republican leader.
If Boehner anticipates conflict, Emanuel, who once sent a Democratic consultant a dead fish, said he didn't relish a fight.
"I want to say a special word about my Republican colleagues, who serve with dignity, decency and a deep sense of patriotism,'' Emanuel said in a statement. "We often disagree, but I respect their motives. Now is a time for unity.''
That's not to say Emanuel will suddenly transform his kinetic personality.
"The genius about the pick is this good cop you will have in President Obama and the absolute enforcer you will have in Rahm,'' said John Lapp, who served as executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006, when Emanuel served as chairman and Democrats gained control of the House for the first time in 12 years.
"He knows where the bodies are buried, what people's wants, desires, needs and vulnerabilities are,'' Lapp said. "He does not tolerate mistakes. He does not tolerate human error.''
At the same time, Lapp described Emanuel as a "policy wonk'' who "loves President Obama like a brother.''
Daley, the younger brother of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, said Emanuel has the three qualities needed in a successful chief of staff.
'Disciplined and Organized'
"One, he's very focused, disciplined and organized,'' Daley said. "He is very good on policy and he does get the interconnection with policy issues and debates. And third, he's close to the president-elect.''
Emanuel has matured since his days in the White House, where he was known as an aide whose elbows were sometimes too sharp, into a more nuanced leader, according to Daley.
"The Rahm of 15 years ago is very different from the Rahm of today,'' Daley said. "The young Rahm was pretty full of himself.''
Illinois Republican Representative Ray LaHood agreed.
LaHood, who is retiring after seven terms in office, said Emanuel called him the day after he was first elected in 2002 and offered to work with him. The two struck up a friendship and over the last two years organized dinners in Washington among Republican and Democratic lawmakers to try to lower the partisan temperature.
'A True Friend'
"This idea that Rahm is a guy who can't get along with Republicans is just not true,'' LaHood said. "The truth is in politics, you can count your friends on one or two hands, but he's been a true friend.''
Added LaHood, "The idea that he's just a trash-talking, hard-core Chicago pol does not reflect who the man really is.''