When Rahm Emanuel went looking for a loyal stenographer to dictate a canonical piece on himself, no surprise his gaze landed on Ryan Lizza, who did the honors for Chuck Schumer in the recent past (wherein Lizza called Russ Feingold "an ass" for proposing a censure resolution against George Bush). This week’s New Yorker carries the 5200 word lap dance in which Rahm finds universal praise from sources carefully chosen to heap said praise upon him. Paul Krugman gets bashed by Rahm but sadly, there is no room for him to respond.
There are a few more things that mysteriously did not make their way into what purported to be a comprehensive piece on the President’s Chief of staff:
• Conversations Rahm Had with Rod Blagojevich over his House seat which were taped by the FBI but not addressed in Greg Craig’s memo on White House contacts, the fact that he is mentioned in Fitzgerald’s complaint against Blagojevich as "President-elect Advisor" or that this will almost certainly continue to haunt him as the case against Blagojevich proceeds.
• How Rahm as head of the DCCC infuriated immigration rights advocates by haranguing congressional candidates to "move right" on immigration, pushed Heath Shuler into putting forward the enforcement-only SAVE Act and then strong armed freshmen into co-sponsoring it, or how it triggered a revolt of the Hispanic caucus on the House floor that he’s now trying to repair in the wake of Hispanic support for Obama in ’08.
• Rahm’s predilection for giving unfortunate press conferences, including the one in 07 where he hailed the passage of the Supplemental as "the beginning of the end of the President’s policy in Iraq," saying it "ends the blank check on more troops, more money and more of the same, and it begins the notion that we have to have a new direction to Iraq that has accountability" (see YouTube).
• Paul Krugman gets drubbed because he’s not able to seat Al Franken (a charge more reasonably leveled against Harry Reid), but Rahm isn’t asked to explain how the Judd Gregg fiasco happened — even though lot of people on the Hill and in the White House blame Rahm and his love of "leaking" for screwing that one up, not to mention the bungling of the Geithner and Daschle vets (which Rahm likes to unload on Podesta).
• Republicans attribute their ability to hold formation against the stimulus bill to their universal hatred of Rahm, making him a strange choice for Chief of Staff in a White House that has committed itself to bipartisanship. Anybody ask how the President felt when Rahm held a press conference saying his commitment to bipartisanship was just for show, a huge mistake they’d never make again, and even though they’re still a few votes shy of 60 Democrats in the Senate henceforth the Republicans could all kiss his ass?
None of these make it in. Instead, we get fawning tributes like "besides Obama himself, Emanuel had done the most to coax and bully the bill out of Congress and onto the President’s desk for signing." An unusual claim that many would dispute, and since the article does not indicate that anyone directly involved in the contentious Senate negotiations was contacted for comment, most likely attributable yet again to Rahm himself. Maybe the tensions between Rahm and Democratic leadership during the struggle to pass the bill was worthy of mention?
He’s described as a "political John McEnroe, known for both his mercurial temperament and his tactical brilliance," who likes to "likes to clean up after cleanup time is over," an "efficient manager" and "a subject of intrigue in Washington." Almost anyone with even a fleeting knowledge of his background would acknowledge that Rahm is a controversial figure, yet no actual "controversy" made it into the article. His only apparent critic is Fidel Castro.
It’s a profile more appropriate to People Magazine than the New Yorker, and any political journalist should be embarrassed to have their name on the byline. But such is the price of access it seems, and it’s not like there’s a shortage of people willing to fawn and flatter in exchange for a scoop.
Given Rahm’s firm control over any information coming out of the White House and his unfettered love of hagiographic profiles, we’ll no doubt be seeing more.
Update: I’m reminded that Lizza is writing a book on Obama’s first year in office, which no doubt depends on…access.