Photo credit: um, Barack Obama

Photo credit: um, Barack Obama

Okay, quick business quiz for everyone: What do you do with an employee who is incompetent, insubordinate, and constantly sneaking around behind your back?  According to Jodi Kantor’s new book, if you’re Barack Obama you spitefully… force him to keep working for you.

Then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel offered his resignation to President Barack Obama in the winter of 2010 after a series of columns appeared depicting him as the lone element keeping the Obama presidency intact. According to then senior adviser David Axelrod, Emanuel understood that the stories “were an embarrassment” to the president. The president, already suffering from a setback to his health care reform effort, declined Emanuel’s offer to resign, despite being convinced that his chief of staff was the main source for the columns.

“I’m not accepting it,” Obama replied. “Your punishment is that you have to stay here and get this bill done. I’m not letting you off the hook.”

Obama sure showed him!  And he got the shitty compromised-to-hell HCR bill he wanted!  It was a win-win for everybody, except America.

Rahm’s non-firing reminds me of the argument I heard occasionally in 2004 that the Democrats should tank the election to force Dubya to deal with his own mess.  Not only did it ignore the terrible human cost, it also failed to consider that a second term would make the mess so huge as to be uncleanable, meaning that any Democrat short of FDR would end up wearing it instead of fixing it.  And Obama is very far short of FDR.

Rahm’s retention is also perfectly emblematic of Obama’s approach to the presidency: Passive, devoid of accountability, and resulting in either a fake victory or a defeat that can be blamed on someone else.

If Obama’s doctors found a literal cancer on the president, I would half expect him to decide that rather than letting it off the hook by having it surgically removed, he would teach it a lesson by submitting it to a steady diet of health food which it would not enjoy at all.  And when he inevitably got sicker, he’d blame it on his doctors but refuse to fire them or accept any treatment.