Sunday, November 9, 2008

Who is Rahm Emanuel?

Congressman Rahm Israel Emanuel was born in Chicago in 1959. He is the son of Benjamin M. Emanuel, a former member of the Jewish militia Irgun (operated from 1931 to 1948 during the British Mandate of Palestine). 

He, as a small child, attended a Jewish day school (Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School), and after that attended public schools. He attended summer camps in Israel. 

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Rahm was a civilian volunteer in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces). 

Emanuel has earned a reputation as a "take no prisoners" politician and carries the nickname "Rahm-bo." He worked for the Clinton administration, and on the night after the 1996 election, he was "so angry at the president's enemies that he stood up at a celebratory dinner with colleagues from the campaign, grabbed a steak knife and began rattling off a list of betrayers, shouting 'Dead!... Dead!... Dead!' and plunging the knife into the table after every name."

During a two and a half year period working as an investment banker (1998-2002), Emanuel amassed a personal fortune of $16.2 million. In 2000, he was named to the Board of Directors for Freddie Mac, a position that paid him $31,000 in 2000 and $231,000 in 2001. While on the board (and, obviously, ever thereafter) Freddie Mac was steeped in scandal involving campaign contributions and accounting irregularities. Emanuel went from being on this board to being a congressman. 

The top five contributors to Emanuel's 2008 campaign were UBS AG at $63,700, AT&T at $49,950, Blackstone Group at $47,000, JPMorgan Chase & Co. at $45,700, and Grosvenor Capital Management at $38,900. The top five industries contributing to his campaign were Securities & Investment at $600,500, Lawyers and law firms at $172,851, Insurance at $134,400, Commercial Banks at $121,200, and Health Professionals at $113,350. Emanuel did not self-finance any of his campaign in 2008.

Emanuel serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax legislation, Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs. Illinois Republican Rep. Ray LaHood said of Emanuel after the 2006 election cycle, "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 in seven cycles."

Clearly Rahm Emanuel is a passionate individual. He has a very liberal voting record and is dedicated to the survival of the Jewish state. He doesn't appear to fear criticism from anybody. Some are saying the choice of Emanuel as Chief of Staff by Obama was strange given Obama's promise to bring a new tone to Washington... but I don't agree. After all the questions about whether or not Obama would support Israel, he couldn't have chosen anyone else to more clearly articulate his support.

I highly doubt anybody closely following politics for the last year expects Obama to govern from the center. I wouldn't expect Obama to choose for his cabinet anybody I would align myself with politically. I have strong disagreements with Rahm Emanuel in policy - but given what Obama wishes to accomplish in his presidency, I think Emanuel probably a perfect choice in getting those things done. 

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