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Rahm Israel Emanuel (born November 29, 1959) is an Americanmarker politician currently serving as White House Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama. He served previously as Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives, representing from 2003 until his resignation in 2009 to take up his current position in the Obama Administration.

Emanuel was chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2006 mid-term elections and remained a top strategist for House Democrats during the 2008 cycle. After Democrats regained control of the House in 2006, Emanuel was elected chairman of the Democratic Caucus. This made him the fourth-ranking House Democrat, behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.
  Two days after Obama's election victory, he was announced as Barack Obama's designate for White House Chief of Staff. Emanuel resigned from the House on January 2, 2009 and began his current job on January 20, 2009, the day of Obama's inauguration.

Early and personal life

Emanuel was born in Chicago, Illinois to Jewish parents. His father, Benjamin M. Emanuel, a Jerusalemmarker-born pediatrician, was a member of the Irgun, a militant Zionist group that operated in the British mandate of Palestine between 1931 and 1948. His mother, Marsha Smulevitz, was the daughter of a Chicago union organizer. She worked in the civil rights movement and owned, briefly, a local rock-and-roll club. She is now a psychiatric social worker. The two met in Chicago in the 1950s. Emanuel's older brother Ezekiel J. Emanuel is an oncologist and bioethicist, and his brother Ari Emanuel a Hollywoodmarker talent agent. He has an adopted sister, Shoshanna, 14 years his junior.

Emanuel's first name, Rahm ( ) means high or lofty in Hebrew, and is the namesake of one Rahamim (surname unknown), which means mercy in Hebrew, who was killed by Arabs in the 1940s. . The surname Emanuel ( ), adopted by the family in honor of his father's brother Emanuel Auerbach, killed by Arabs in Jerusalem, means God is with us. Sources conflict as to whether the family changed its name from Auerbach in 1933 or 1938..

When the family lived in Chicago, Emanuel attended Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Jewish Day School, a Conservative Jewish day school. After his family moved to Wilmettemarker, he attended public schools: Romona School, Wilmette Junior High School, and New Trier West High Schoolmarker. He and his brothers attended summer camp in Israel, including just after the 1967 Six Day War.

At some point during his high school years, while working at an Arby's restaurant, Emanuel severely cut his right middle finger on a meat slicer. He sought medical attention only after suffering severe infection from swimming in Lake Michigan and as a result of the wound, the finger had to be partially amputated.

Emanuel was encouraged by his mother to take ballet lessons as a boy and is a graduate of the Evanston School of Ballet. He won a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet but turned it down to attend Sarah Lawrence Collegemarker, a liberal arts school with a strong dance program.He graduated from Sarah Lawrence Collegemarker in 1981 with a B.A. in Liberal Arts, and went on to receive an M.A. in Speech and Communication from Northwestern Universitymarker in 1985. While still an undergraduate, he joined the congressional campaign of David Robinson of Chicago.
 In the first Gulf War, Emanuel served with the Israel Defense Forces as a civilian volunteer helping to maintain equipment.  

Emanuel's wife, Amy Rule, converted to Judaism shortly before their wedding. They are members of Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel, a Modern Orthodox congregation in Chicago. They have a son and two daughters ; the older two Zach and Ilana attend The Maret School in Washington DC.

Emanuel is a close friend of fellow Chicagoan David Axelrod, chief strategist for the 2008 Barack Obama presidential campaign. Axelrod signed the ketuba, a Jewish marriage contract, at Emanuel's wedding, an honor that goes to a close friend.

Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel Congregation is quoted as saying: "It's a very involved Jewish family"; "Amy was one of the teachers for a class for children during the High Holidays two years ago." Emanuel has said of his Judaism: "I am proud of my heritage and treasure the values it has taught me." Emanuel's family lives on the North Side of Chicago, in the North Centermarker neighborhood.

Emanuel trains for and participates in triathlons.

Career as political staffer

Emanuel began his political career with the public interest and consumer rights organization Illinois Public Action. He went on to serve in a number of capacities in local and national politics, initially specializing in fundraising for Illinois campaigns and then nationally.

Emanuel worked for Democrat Paul Simon's 1984 election to the U.S. Senate, was the national campaign director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 1988, and then was senior advisor and chief fundraiser for Richard M. Daley's victorious campaign for Mayor of Chicago in 1989.

At the start of then-Arkansasmarker Governor Bill Clinton's presidential primary campaign, Emanuel was appointed to direct the campaign's finance committee. Emanuel insisted that Clinton schedule a lot of time for fundraising and greatly delay campaigning in New Hampshiremarker. Clinton agreed and embarked on an aggressive fundraising campaign across the nation. The fundraising paid off later, providing the campaign a vital buffer to keep buying television time as attacks on Clinton's character threatened to swamp the campaign during the New Hampshire primary.

Clinton's most serious primary rival, Paul Tsongas (the New Hampshire Democratic primary winner in 1992), later withdrew, citing a lack of campaign funds. Richard Mintz, a Washington public relations consultant who worked with Emanuel on the campaign, spoke about the soundness of the idea: "It was that [extra] million dollars that really allowed the campaign to withstand the storm we had to ride out in New Hampshire [over Clinton's relationship with Gennifer Flowers and the controversy over his draft status during the Vietnam War]." Emanuel's knowledge of the top donors in the country, and his rapport with potential donors within the Jewish community helped Clinton amass a then-unheard-of sum of $72 million.

Following the campaign, Emanuel became a senior advisor to Clinton at the White Housemarker from 1993 to 1998. In the White House, Emanuel was initially Assistant to the President for Political Affairs and then Senior Advisor to the President for Policy and Strategy. He was a leading strategist in the unsuccessful White House efforts to institute universal healthcare and many other Clinton initiatives.

Emanuel is known for his "take-no-prisoners style" that has earned him the nickname "Rahmbo." Emanuel is said to have sent a dead fish in a box to a pollster who was late delivering polling results. On the night after the 1996 election, "Emanuel 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." Before Tony Blair gave a pro-Clinton speech during the impeachment crisis, Emanuel reportedly screamed to Blair's face "Don't fuck this up!" while Clinton was present; Blair and Clinton both burst into laughter. However, by 2007 his close friends were saying that he has "mellowed out." Stories of his personal style have entered the popular culture, inspiring articles and websites that chronicle these and other quotes and incidents. Though executive producer Lawrence O'Donnell has denied it, the character Josh Lyman in The West Wing is said to be based on Rahm Emanuel.

One of his proudest moments during the Clinton administration "was an event that touched his political sensibilities and his personal ties to Israelmarker: the 1993 Rose Garden signing ceremony after the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization ("PLO"). Emanuel directed the details of the ceremony, down to the choreography of the famous handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat."

Career in finance

After serving as an advisor to Bill Clinton, in 1998 Emanuel resigned from his position in the Clinton administration and became an investment banker at Wasserstein Perella (now Dresdner Kleinwort), where he worked until 2002. In 1999, he became a managing director at the firm’s Chicago office. Emanuel made $16.2 million in his two-and-a-half-year stint as a banker, according to Congressional disclosures. At Wasserstein Perella, he worked on eight deals, including the acquisition by Commonwealth Edison of Peco Energy and the purchase by GTCR Golder Rauner of the SecurityLink home security unit from SBC Communications.

Emanuel was named to the Board of Directors for the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation by then President Bill Clinton in 2000. His position earned him at least $320,000, including later stock sales.
was not assigned to any of the board's working committees, and the Board met no more than six times per year.

During his time on the board, Freddie Mac was plagued with scandals involving campaign contributions and accounting irregularities. The Obama Administration rejected a request under the Freedom of Information Act to review Freddie Mac board minutes and correspondence during Emanuel's time as a director.

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) later accused the board of having "failed in its duty to follow up on matters brought to its attention." Emanuel resigned from the board in 2001 when he ran for Congress.

Congressional career

Election in 2002

After working in investment banking, in 2002 Emanuel pursued the U.S. House seat in the 5th District of Illinois previously held by Rod Blagojevich, who chose not to run for re-election, but instead successfully ran for Governor of Illinois.

His strongest opponent of the seven other candidates in the 2002 Democratic primary — the real contest in this heavily Democratic district — was former Illinois State Representative Nancy Kaszak, who had unsuccessfully opposed Blagojevich in the 1996 primary. The most controversial moment of the primary election came when Edward Moskal, president of the Polish American Congress, a political action committee endorsing Kaszak, called Emanuel a "millionaire carpetbagger who knows nothing" about "our heritage". Moskal also charged that Emanuel had dual citizenship with Israelmarker and had served in the Israeli Army. Emanuel did not serve in the Israeli army, but was a civilian volunteer assisting the Israel Defense Forces for a short time during the 1991 Gulf War, repairing truck brakes in one of Israel's northern bases with Sar-El. Emanuel brought together a coalition of Chicago clergy to denounce the incident. He recalled, "One of the proudest moments of my life was seeing people of my district from all backgrounds demonstrate our common values by coming together in response to this obvious attempt to divide them." Moskal's comments were denounced as anti-Semitic by Kaszak.

Emanuel won the primary and defeated Republican candidate Mark Augusti in the general election.

Emanuel was elected after the October 2002 joint Congressional resolution authorizing the Iraq War, and thus was not able to vote on it, however Emanuel has been the focus of anti-war protests for his support of funding bills for the war in Iraq, and his support, during Democratic party primaries, of Democratic party candidates that are more hawkish. In his first term, Rahm Emanuel was a founding member and the Co-Chair of the Congressional Serbian Caucus.

In January, 2003 he was named to the House Financial Services Committee, and sat on the subcommittee that oversaw Freddie Mac. A few months later, Freddie Mac Chief Executive Officer Leland Brendsel was forced out, and the committee and subcommittee commenced hearings lasting for more than a year. Emanuel skipped every hearing allegedly for reasons of avoiding any appearance of favoritism, impropriety, or conflict of interest.

In 2006, Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass reported he had a newsroom confrontation with Emanuel over Kass’s continued speculation that Emanuel only won his 2002 election because convicted former Chicago water department boss Don Tomczak sent in his employees to work for Emanuel. He also speculated that Mayor Richard Daley’s “underlings” who were sentenced to federal prison for organizing “patronage armies” also helped Emanuel.

A top contributor to Emanuel's campaigns have been Securities and Investments business interests according to Open Secrets's research: [49326]

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman

Emanuel assumed the position of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman (DCCC) after the death of the previous chair, Bob Matsui. Emanuel led the Democratic Party's effort to capture the majority in the House of Representatives in the 2006 elections. After Emanuel's election as chairman of the Democratic Caucus, Chris Van Hollen became committee chair for the 110th Congress.

While he was chairman of the DCCC, Emanuel was known to have had disagreements over Democratic election strategy with Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. Dean favored a "50 state strategy", building support for the Democratic Party over the long term, while Emanuel believed a more tactical approach, focusing attention on key districts, was necessary to ensure victory.

Ultimately the Democratic Party enjoyed considerable success in the 2006 elections, gaining 30 seats in the House. Emanuel has received considerable praise for his stewardship of the DCCC during this election cycle, even from Illinois Republican Rep. Ray LaHood who said "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."

2008 Election

Emanuel declared in April 2006 that he would support Hillary Rodham Clinton should she pursue the presidency in 2008. Emanuel remained close to Bill Clinton since leaving the White House, talking strategy with him at least once a month as chairman of the DCCC. However, Emanuel's loyalties came into conflict when his home-state senator Barack Obama expressed interest in the race; asked in January 2007 about his stance on the Democratic presidential nomination, he said: "I'm hiding under the desk. I'm very far under the desk, and I'm bringing my paper and my phone." Emanuel remained neutral in the race until June 4, 2008, the day after the final primary contests, when he endorsed the eventual winner Obama.

Emanuel won re-election to the House, defeating Republican candidate Tom Hanson. Open Secrets reported that Emanuel "was the top House recipient in the 2008 election cycle of contributions from hedge funds, private equity firms and the larger securities/investment industry".

House leadership

After his role in helping the Democrats win the 2006 elections, Emanuel was believed to be a leading candidate for the position of Majority Whip. Nancy Pelosi, who became the next Speaker of the House, persuaded him not to challenge Jim Clyburn, but instead to succeed Clyburn in the role of Democratic Caucus Chairman. In return, Pelosi agreed to assign the caucus chair more responsibilities, including "aspects of strategy and messaging, incumbent retention, policy development and rapid-response communications." Caucus vice-chair John Larson remained in this role instead of running for the chairman position.

After U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney asserted that he did not fall within the bounds of orders set for the executive branch, Emanuel called for cutting off the $4.8 million the Executive Branch provides for the Vice President's office.

Political views

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel looks at a newspaper in the Oval Office, as President Barack Obama talks on the phone April 4, 2009.
During his original 2002 campaign, Emanuel "indicated his support of President Bush's position on Iraqmarker, but said he believed the president needed to better articulate his position to the American people". One of the major goals he spoke of during the race was "to help make health care affordable and available for all Americans".

Emanuel frustrated Chicago peace activists who lobbied his office to reverse course on the Iraq war. In the 2006 congressional primaries, Emanuel, then head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, made national headlines for engineering a run by Tammy Duckworth – an Iraq war veteran with no political experience – against grassroots candidate Christine Cegelis in Illinois' 6th District. Expedited withdrawal from Iraq was a central point of Cegelis's campaign; Duckworth opposed a withdrawal timetable.

In his 2006 book, co-authored with Bruce Reed, The Plan: Big Ideas for America,
 Emanuel advocated a three-month compulsory universal service program for Americans between the ages of 18 and 25.  An expanded version of this idea was later proposed by U.S. Presidential candidate Barack Obama (who was later to choose Emanuel as his White House Chief of Staff), during his 2008 campaign, in a  speech on July 2, 2008 at the University of Coloradomarker, in which Obama proposed a "civilian national security force" (this term being used in the spoken version of his speech, not in the original written version), which included expanded voluntary national service programs in many areas, such as infrastructure rebuilding, service to the elderly, and environmental cleanup. For some of these services, tax credits and direct pay, primarily for college tuition, was proposed. Obama's original proposal was for participation by all ages, but with required participation by all middle school and high school students for 50 hours of community service a year. That proposed requirement was later modified to being "a goal".  Obama's entire service program proposal quickly became controversial, largely for being mistaken as a call for a national paramilitary force, though the proposal's only reference to military service was volunteer participation in regular U.S. Armed Forces, as one activity that would qualify for inclusion under the program's umbrella.

Emanuel is generally liberal on social issues. He maintained a 100 percent pro-choice voting record and is a strong supporter of gun control, rated "F" by the NRA in December 2003. He has also strongly supported the banning of numerous rifles based upon "sporting" purposes criteria. He has aligned himself with the centrist wing of the Democratic Party, the Democratic Leadership Council.

In June 2007, Emanuel condemned an outbreak of Palestinian violence in the Gaza Strip and criticized Arab countries for not applying the same kind of pressure on the Palestinians as they have on Israel. At a 2003 pro-Israel rally in Chicago, Emanuel told the marchers Israel was ready for peace but would not get there until Palestinians "turn away from the path of terror".

Emanuel has been called an ally of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley; other sources dispute that he has been an ally of Blagojevich, for whom Emanuel served as a campaign adviser. He called Illinois state legislator John C. D'Amico in 2008 in support of Blagojevich's Illinois capital bill, but withdrew his encouragement when he discovered Daley opposed the bill. After Obama's election victory, Emanuel articulated his view on the role of government as a positive force to face difficult challenges and solve national problems, notably combating global warming through green energy policies and completely restructuring the healthcare system.

Electoral history

House, 5th District of Illinois (General Election)
Winning candidate
Rahm Emanuel
Mark Augusti
Frank Gonzalez
Rahm Emanuel (inc.)
Bruce Best
Rahm Emanuel (inc.)
Kevin White
Rahm Emanuel (inc.)
Tom Hanson
Alan Augustson

White House Chief of Staff

Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel in the Oval Office
On November 6, 2008, Emanuel accepted the Cabinet-level position of White House Chief of Staff for Barack Obama. He resigned his congressional seat effective January 2, 2009. A special primary to fill his vacated congressional seat was held on March 3, 2009, and the special general election on April 7. Chicago newspapers reported that one candidate for that seat said at a forum that Emanuel had told him he may be interested in running for the seat again in the future.

In an article in New York Times Emanuel was characterized as being "perhaps the most influential chief of staff of a generation".

Reaction to appointment

Some Republican leaders criticized Emanuel's appointment because they believed it went against Obama's promises to make politics less divisive, given Emanuel's reputation as a partisan Democrat. Republican Lindsey Graham disagreed, saying: "This is a wise choice by President-elect Obama. He's tough but fair – honest, direct and candid."

Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said that the choice indicates that Obama will not listen to the wrong people regarding the U.S.–Israel relationship. Some commentators opined that Emanuel would be good for the Israeli–Palestinian peace process because if Israeli leaders make excuses for not dismantling settlements, Emanuel will be tough and pressure the Israelis to comply.

Some Palestinians have expressed dismay at Obama’s appointment of Emanuel. Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada said that Obama’s appointment of Emanuel sent the signal he would not be taking “more balanced, more objective, more realistic advice that could change the course from the disastrous Palestine-Israel policies of the Bush and Clinton administrations.” Emanuel said that Obama did not need his influence to "orientate his policy toward Israel".



Further reading

  • Bendavid, Naftali The Thumpin': How Rahm Emanuel and the Democrats Learned to Be Ruthless and Ended the Republican Revolution, Doubleday (May 8, 2007), ISBN 978-0385523288


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