Earlier today White House spokesman Robert Gibbs refused to confirm or deny reports that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is leaving that post to run for mayor of Chicago. Gibbs did confirm that there will be a major announcement involving President Obama in the East Room of the White House Friday morning at 11:05 a.m. EDT. There’s even word on who will be the interim chief of staff. That would be senior adviser Pete Rouse, who has been with the president since his one term in the U.S. Senate.
Emanuel’s departure comes on the heels of word that message man David Axelrod is also leaving soon to run Obama’s 2012 campaign, and on the heels of departures among the president’s economics team.
Emanuel was probably the most pragmatic member of the Obama inner circle. His departure is sure to increase the disconnect between the White House and Congressional Democrats, who increasingly see the president as a tarnished leader out of touch with the damage he is doing to his own party. It’s also likely to increase the influence of Valerie Jarrett. That likelihood explains Dana Milbank’s insidery piece, which appeared in the Washington Post on Wednesday.
With the absence of Emanuel, Jarrett’s primary rival, and Axelrod, Obama’s other staff confidant, her ability to exert her influence in any matter of her choosing would go largely unchecked.
And that’s probably not a good thing for Obama.
As the senior adviser in charge of “public engagement,” she has been the White House official responsible for maintaining relationships with the business community and with liberal interest groups — two of the most conspicuous areas of failure for the White House during Obama’s first two years.
She’s also the one who arranged the hiring of social secretary Desiree Rogers, only to cut her friend loose when Rogers was tarnished by the party-crashing Salahis at a state dinner in November.
The fact is, to the extent that Emanuel’s departure increases Jarrett’s influence, is the extent to which this White House will continue to lose support. Jarrett is a a far-left academic and activist with no demonstrable grasp of economics or policy making. Her advice is likely only to lead Obama farther to the left.
Peter Orszag, Christina Romer, Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod … these high-level departures usually occur at three points in a president’s time in office: At the mid-point after he has been re-elected, at the mid-point of a second term as his popularity wanes and advisers move on with their careers, or when a presidency is in real trouble. With his poll numbers flagging and Democrats facing a red sea they can’t cross in November, it’s not hard to see that Obama is facing Door #3. And he’ll be facing it without the close services of several of the top aides who shaped his successful run for the White House.