Let Us Talk

November 8, 2008

Who Is Rahm Emanuel – Why Is The Chief Of Staff So Important?




The White House Chief of Staff is the highest ranking member of the Executive Office of the President of the United States and a senior aide to the President.  The Chief of Staff is often nicknamed ‘The Second Most Powerful Man in Washington’ because of the influence and access to the President.

pres-elect-rahm-emanuel “I announce this appointment first because the chief of staff is central to the ability of a President and administration to accomplish an agenda,” President-Elect Obama said in a statement. “And no one I know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel.”

Traditionally the Chief of Staff has been responsible for overseeing the actions of the White House staff, managing the President’s schedule and deciding who is allowed to meet with the President.  Because of these duties, the Chief of Staff has at various times been called ‘The Gatekeeper’ and ‘The Co-President’.

Most White House Chiefs of Staff are former politicians and many continue their political careers in other senior roles once they leave the White House.  Gerald Ford’s Chief of Staff was Dick Cheney.  Cheney became US Representative for Wyoming, then Secretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush and Vice President under George W. Bush.

The roles of the Chief of Staff are both managerial and advisory and can include the following duties depending on President Obama’s vision and style of conducting business:

·       Select key White House staff and supervise them

·       Structure the White House staff system

·       Control the flow of people into the Oval Office

·       Manage the flow of information to the POTUS

·       Advise the President on issues, politics and policies and management issues

·       Protect the interest of the President

·       Negotiate with Congress and other members of the Executive Branch and other governmental political groups to implement the President’s agenda

Rahm Israel Emanuel, President-Elect Obama’s choice for Chief of Staff was born in Chicago, Illinois.  His first name Rahm means ‘high’ or ‘lofty’ in Hebrew and his last name, Emanuel, means ‘God is with us.’

Rahm’s last name was adopted by his family in 1933 after Rahm’s paternal uncle Emanuel Auerbach was killed in a skirmish with Arabs in Jerusalem.

Rahm’s father, Benjamin Emanuel was born in Jerusalem.  He is a pediatrician and former member of the Irgun – a staunchly nationalist Zionist militia active in the British Mandate of Palestine between 1931 and 1948.  His mother, the former Martha Smulevitz, worked as an x-ray technician and was the daughter of a local union organizer.  She became a civil rights activist and was also the owner of a Chicago- area rock and roll club.

Rahm attended Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School – a Jewish day school.  After his family moved to Wilmette he attended public schools: Romona School, Wilmette Junior High School and New Trier West High School.  He and his brothers attended summer camp in Israel. During high school while working at an Arby’s Emanuel severely injured his right middle finger.  Instead of getting medical treatment he went swimming in Lake Michigan.  His finger became severely infected and was partially amputated.

Rahm graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1981 and received a Masters in Speech and Communication from Northwestern University in 1985. While an undergraduate he joined the congressional campaign of David Robinson, Chicago.

Emanuel was a civilian volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and served in one of Israel’s northern bases.

Amy Rule, Rahm’s wife, is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.  Amy converted to Modern Orthodox Judaism shortly before their wedding.  They are active members of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel – a Modern Orthodox congregation in Chicago.  They have three children: a son Zachariah and daughters Ilana and Leah.

Obama Transition Emanuel was named the Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2005.  Prior to his work for President Clinton, Emanuel had been an employee of the Committee which principally serves to recruit candidates for the House and to raise funds to assist both new candidates and incumbents from the Democratic Party in an effort to gain Democratic representation in the House.

Emanuel declared that in his new role “winning is everything” and urged Democratic candidates to adopt more centrist positions.  Emanuel had disagreements with Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean over Democratic election strategy.  Dean favored a ’50 state strategy’ which would build support for the Democratic Party over the long term, while Emanuel favored a strategic premeditated approach which would focus attention on the key districts which were necessary to ensure victory.

The Democratic Party enjoyed considerable success in the 2006 elections where they gained 30 seats in the House.  Emanuel received considerable praise for his management of the DCCC during this election cycle.  Even republican Representative Ray LaHood said that “He legitimately can be called the golden boy of the Democratic Party today.  He recruited the right candidates, found the money and funded them and provided issues for them.  Rahm did what no one else could do.”  Many of the 2006 victories choreographed by Emanuel came in areas that had leaned strongly for the republicans in recent years.

Emanuel and President Clinton remains close and they talk DCCC strategy at least once a month.  In April 2006 Emanuel declared his support for Hillary Clinton if she ran for the presidency.  When his home state Senator Obama articulated his interest in running for POTUS Emanuel was conflicted and said, “I’m hiding under my desk.  I’m very far under the desk and I’m bringing my paper and my phone.”

I believe that Emanuel’s appointment is an excellent choice – he’s a pitbull without lipstick. Rahm knows Capitol Hill and has great political skills. He knows Israel and its issues. He’s tough but fair, honest, direct, candid and he knows how to get the job done. These qualities will serve President-Elect Obama well especially with the myriad of problems that will confront President Obama. President Obama will need to be surrounded with exceptionally intelligent, astute people of good judgment whom he trusts unconditionally; people whom he knows has his interest and the American people’s interest at heart implicitly. 

If President Obama’s White House is run as efficiently as Candidate Obama’s election we will see a record amount of strategies and policies implemented that will benefit we the American people.

I am fired up!





  1. Rahm Emanuel is an excellent choice for Chief of Staff!!

    Comment by ESTEBAN AGOSTO REID — November 8, 2008 @ 1:31 pm | Reply

  2. Expect a lot of republicans to see dead fish show up on their door steps 😉

    Comment by sensico — November 8, 2008 @ 5:49 pm | Reply

  3. Sensico – no doubt! 😆

    Comment by Paulette — November 8, 2008 @ 5:59 pm | Reply

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