The Two Sides of Rahm Emanuel: Sociopathic Political Hitman and Puppy LoverS

Today, in the New York Times awesome profile on Rahm Emanuel, some great stories. Chief among them: Rahm not getting invited to Camp David, Rahm nixing Sidney Blumenthal's role in Hilary Clinton's office, and Rahm the "pile driver." But why?

Because it looks like the Obama administration's trying to debunk the idea of a psychotic, power-crazed Jew, running around the White House, making decisions and deciding policy for the rest of the country. They don't want him to be seen as the Democratic Karl Rove, which, in all fairness, who would? The spin they're trying to deliver looks to be: Emanuel's role, while important, isn't a man-behind-the-curtains one, and also, that they're trying to make him softer, nicer, kinder, and seen as the hard-working guy they see him as. But they also don't want to completely tone down the stabby. While Rahm declined to be interviewed for his big New York Times profile treatment, plenty of his colleagues spoke on and off the record about him. The anecdotes in it are pretty juicy:

  • The lede, which is the story about Blumenthal:

    "...Clinton wanted to hire Mr. Blumenthal, a loyal confidant who had helped her promote the idea of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" more than a decade ago. But President Obama's campaign veterans still blamed him for spreading harsh attacks against their candidate in the primary showdown with Mrs. Clinton last year. So Mr. Emanuel talked with Mrs. Clinton, said Democrats informed about the situation, and explained that bringing Mr. Blumenthal on board was a no-go. The bad blood among his colleagues was too deep, and the last thing the administration needed, he concluded, was dissension and drama in the ranks. In short, Mr. Blumenthal was out."

  • A quote by Joel Johnson on the precarious of his role in the White House: "He's about to be tested; he's spinning a lot of plates over there and he breaks a lot of china," said Joel Johnson, a close friend and fellow veteran official of the Clinton White House.

  • Rahm's relentlessly aggro nature, which is pounded into the profile time and time again. For example, Axelrod, on the record: "'The president has a zenlike quality,' said Mr. Obama's senior adviser, David Axelrod. 'Rahm is a pile driver.'"

  • The aforementioned revelation that Rahm didn't get invited to Camp David: "When Mr. Obama invited longtime aides like Mr. Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, to Camp David recently, Mr. Emanuel was not included."

  • Obama's visceral reaction to the Valerie Jarrett profile in the Times: "When a New York Times Magazine profile of Ms. Jarrett last month explored the old scratchiness, White House officials said the normally calm Mr. Obama erupted with anger."

  • The attempts to define a softer, kinder Rahm: "While he remains a tough, foul-mouthed scrapper, he is more likely these days to give a dog dish to a senator who got a new puppy (as he did to Kent Conrad this summer) than send a dead fish to an enemy (as he did two decades ago as a brash young campaign aide)."

  • And some nice trivia: Rahm's schedule. "Mr. Emanuel, 49, starts his day shortly after 5 a.m., when he swims at the Y.M.C.A. and then hits the House gymnasium to pick up intelligence from colleagues from his days in Congress. At 7:30 a.m., he gathers top White House officials in his office and meets the full senior staff in the Roosevelt Room at 8:15 a.m. He then sees the president alone in the Oval Office for 10 minutes, a private session repeated at the end of each day. Aides estimate he talks with 50 people a day by telephone and sends hundreds of e-mail messages. Phone calls often last a minute or two, just long enough to deliver a point or extract information. E-mail messages are often a word or two."

But is Rahm, the dog-bowl sender going to win out over Rahm, the Godfather-aping dead-fish gifter? Hopefully not, for the sake of the White House, and audiences of good political gossip like this. They need a guy who's going to keep getting the job done for them while being somewhat impervious - or at the very least, forgetful - of the risks to his own political career; it makes him dangerous. Meanwhile, White House reporters just need good material, and Rahm - so long as he stays on target - should keep delivering.