Who is Rahm Emanuel?
FrontPageMagazine.com ^ | November 19, 2008 | John Perazzo
Posted on Wednesday, November 19, 2008 2:47:35 PM by SJackson
|Who is Rahm Emanuel?||
By John Perazzo
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Two days after defeating John McCain, Barack Obama made his first appointmentas president-elect when he named 49-year-old Rahm Emanuel to be his chief ofstaff. Formerly an aide to Bill Clinton and currently the DemocraticRepresentative for Illinois’5th congressional district, Emanuel has suddenly become a figure of greatinterest to the American public.
Yet there has been much disagreement about where,on the political spectrum, his politics fall. Some critics have derided him asthe prototype of a partisan leftist. Others, such as ABC reporter ClaireShipman and CNN correspondent Frank Sesno, have characterized him,respectively, as “a pragmatic, centrist politician” and assomeone “on the center to center-right.” Whom are we tobelieve?
The notion that Emanuel is a centrist emerged in 2006 when, to the dismay ofmany on the political Left, he recruited numerous moderate Democraticcandidates to run for election in Southern and Midwestern districts. Whileleft-wing partisans objected to the Democratic Party’s association with “reactionaries” like Jim Webb, the Marine veteranand current Virginia Senator, Emanuel understood that doctrinaire leftistsstood little chance of winning in these traditionally conservative enclaves.Emanuel’s shrewd strategy ultimately enabled Democrats to gain a whopping 30congressional seats in 2006, and thereby to seize control of the House ofRepresentatives.
But is this sufficient proof of Emanuel’s centrism? After all, it canreasonably be argued that Emanuel’s tactic of hand-picking Democratic moderateswas merely the first step in a long-term bait-and-switch strategy where suchindividuals, once elected, could gradually be pressured by the party hierarchyto either drift leftward or surrender their positions to more liberalcandidates.
There is only one reliable way to settle the question of whether Rahm Emanuelshould be defined as a leftist or as a centrist. We must look carefully at thevoting record he has compiled—on an array of vital issues—during his six yearsin Congress.
Consider, for starters, Emanuel’s position on taxes, where his voting recordhas been overwhelmingly on the side of higher tax rates. In May 2003 hevoted against a $350 billion tax cut which contained, among other things, aprovision to eliminate the so-called “marriage tax penalty.” A year later, he voted against a proposal toextend the alternative minimum tax relief that had been available in 2003 and2004. Also in May 2004, he voted against a proposal to makethe $1,000-per-child tax credit permanent rather than letting it decline. Four months later he voted against another bill callingfor a five-year extension on the $1,000 child tax credit.
In October 2004 Emanuelvoted against a ten-year, $145 billion tax cut for domestic manufacturers andsmall corporations. In April 2005 hevoted against a proposal to permanently repeal the estate tax. In November 2005 hevoted against a bill calling for a $49.91 billion reduction in federal spendingover a five-year period. Twelve months later he voted against a similar five-yearproposal for $56.1 billion in federal spending reductions; that bill alsocalled for the retention of a reduced tax rate on capital gains and dividends.
In May 2006 Emanuelvoted against $69.96 billion in tax cuts and credits through 2010, including reductionsof capital gains taxes and dividends taxes. The following month, he voted against aproposal to reduce estate taxes beginning in 2010. The most notable exceptionto Emanuel’s generally across-the-board espousal of higher taxation occurred in January 2008, when he supported a bill givingsingle taxpayers a credit of up to $600, and joint filers a credit of up to$1,200.
Unsurprisingly, organizations that lobby in favor of lower taxes and smallergovernment are uniformly unimpressed by Emanuel’s legislative record. Americans for Tax Reform gives him a score of 5 percent; The National Tax Limitation Committee rates him at 6 percent. FreedomWorks,which “fights for lower taxes, less government and more economic freedom for allAmericans,” is slightly more generous: 10 percent. The National Taxpayers Union gives him a grade of F.
On energy-related issues, Emanuel has consistently rejected proposals thatwould allow the U.S.to harness its own natural reserves of fossil fuels. In May 2006, for instance, he voted against aproposal to provide funds for offshore oil exploration along the OuterContinental Shelf. Instead, he favored a continuation of President Clinton’s 1998 moratorium on oil drilling. In October 2005 andJune 2006, Emanuel voted against theconstruction of new oil refineries.
Emanuel’s positions on the war on terror and national security are also worthyof note. In September 2006 he voted against a bill authorizingthe President to establish military commissions to try enemy combatantscaptured in the war on terror. In Emanuel’s view, such tribunals trample on thecivil rights and liberties of defendants who presumably should be entitled toall the rights and protections afforded by the American criminal courtsystem—where the standards that govern the admissibility of evidence areconsiderably stricter than the counterpart standards in military tribunals.
In September 2006 Emanuel voted against an amendment tothe Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978; this amendment calledfor permitting the government to use electronic surveillance to investigatesuspected terrorist operatives. In May 2007 hevoted in favor of a proposal to expedite the transfer of all prisonerscurrently being held in the Guantanamo Bay detention center, most of whom are,as Gordon Cucullu wrote in The American Enterprise, “notinnocent foot soldiers” but rather “Islamic fundamentalists from across theMiddle East, rabid jihadists who have dedicated their lives to the destructionof America and Western civilization.”
In August 2007 Emanuelvoted against a bill authorizing the Director of National Intelligence and theAttorney General to monitor suspected terrorists’ foreign electroniccommunications that are routed through the United States. In June 2008 hevoted in favor of a bill specifically prohibiting this type of surveillance.
It should be pointed out that in July 2005 Emanueldid cast one notable vote in favor of enhanced national security measures: hesupported reauthorization of the post-9/11 anti-terrorism legislation known asthe Patriot Act. But overall, Emanuel hasdisappointed advocates of strengthening national security measures in the waron terror. The Center for Security Policy, which is committedto “promoting international peace through American strength,” has rated him variously between 17 percent and 35 percent. The American Security Council, which “serves aseducational secretariat of the Congressional Caucus on National Security,”gives him a mere 10 percent rating.
It does not exaggerate Emanuel’s positions on the Iraq War to say that theyhave generally fallen under the category of surrender. In June 2006 hevoted against a resolution stating that it was against America’s nationalsecurity interest to set an arbitrary date for the withdrawal of its troopsfrom Iraq, and that a better course of action would be to withdraw the troopsonly upon the “completion of the mission to create a sovereign, free, secure andunited Iraq.” In February 2007 he voted against the so-called troop”surge”—the deployment of some 21,500 additional U.S.soldiers in an effort to quell the violent insurgents in Iraq. In May 2007 hevoted in favor of an amendment to withdraw U.S.troops from Iraqwithin 90 days. Two months later, he voted to begindramatically reducing the presence of U.S.troops in Iraqby April 1, 2008.
Emmanuel again found himself in the Left’s good graces in June 2008, when he voted in favor of exploringthe possibility of impeaching President Bush on grounds that he allegedly hadmisrepresented U.S.intelligence on Iraqso as to justify the March 2003 American invasion.
On the subject of illegal immigration, Emanuel has done little to inspireconfidence that he will place a premium on guarding America’s borders with anythingmore than hollow rhetoric. In May 2004 hevoted “No” on requiring hospitals to report (to the federal government) illegalaliens who receive emergency medical treatment. In February 2005 hevoted against the Real ID Act, which proposed to set minimal securityrequirements for state driver licenses and identification cards.
In December 2005 hevoted against a bill calling for, among other provisions, the construction ofsome 700 miles of fencing along America’s southern border; the establishment ofa system requiring business owners to verify the legal status of all theiremployees; the detention of any person attempting to enter the U.S. illegallyafter October 1, 2006; an increase in the penalties on anyone attempting tosmuggle illegal aliens into the U.S.; the annual provision of $250 million topay state and local police agencies for their assistance in enforcing federalimmigration laws; and funding for a program mandating that “removable criminalaliens” in prison be deported following the completion of their prisonsentences, rather than be released into American communities. The American Civil Liberties Union, which opposesthe foregoing provisions, has given Emanuel a perfect grade of 100 percent.
In June 2006 Emanuelvoted in favor of an amendment prohibiting the U.S. government from tipping offMexican officials as to the whereabouts of operatives working for the MinutemanProject, a nonviolent organization of American citizens who alert the U.S.Border Patrol to the presence of unauthorized border-crossers in theSouthwestern states.
In September 2006 Emanuel again voted against a billauthorizing the construction of 700 miles of double-layered fencing between theU.S. and Mexico. That same month, he also voted against aproposal to grant state and local officials the authority to investigate,identify, and arrest illegal immigrants.
The U.S. Border Control, which is “is dedicated toending illegal immigration by securing our nation’s borders and reforming ourimmigration policies,” gives Emanuel a rating of 8 percent. The Federation for American Immigration Reform,which “seeks to improve border security, to stop illegal immigration, and topromote immigration levels consistent with the national interest,” rates him anunequivocal zero. By contrast, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, whichfavors open borders and an expansion of rights and liberties for illegalaliens, gives Emanuel a 100 percent rating.
It is instructive also to note that in September 2007 Emanuel voted in favor of a billcalling on money lenders “to use risk-based pricing to more effectively reachunderserved borrowers.” In effect, this bill endorsed the issuance of subprimeloans to under-capitalized borrowers—the very practice that eventually wouldlead to the cataclysmic collapse of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the mortgageindustry. Emanuel, incidentally, had served onthe Freddie Mac board from 2000 to 2001, during which time the mortgage giantwas plagued bysuch major scandals as accounting fraud and illegal campaign contributions tocongressional candidates. It is hardly surprising that Emanuel has received a 100 percent ratingfrom ACORN, the notorious activist group that formany years has played a major role in pressuring banks to make subprimeloans—to say nothing of its involvement in campaigns of voter-registrationfraud.
Next, consider Emanuel’s record on abortion and the rights of the unborn. Onthis issue, too, his alleged centrism is nowhere in evidence On three separate occasions, he voted against legislation thatwould have banned the late-term procedure commonly known as partial-birthabortion. The controversial practice, in which the doctor makes an incision atthe base of the baby’s skull and then vacuums the brain out with a suctioncatheter, was banned under a 2003 federal law, which was upheld by the SupremeCourt in 2007. Bill Frist, the former Senate majority leader and himself apracticing surgeon has called the procedure “barbaric.”
In February 2004 Emanuelvoted against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which proposed to make it anadded criminal offense for someone to injure or kill a fetus while carrying outa crime against a pregnant woman. Twice Emanuel voted againstthe Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, whose purpose was to prohibitthe transportation of a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion withouta parent’s (or a legal guardian’s) consent. In December 2006 Emanuelvoted against the Abortion Pain Bill, which mandated that abortion providers,prior to performing an abortion on a fetus older than 20 weeks, inform themother that the fetus might feel pain during the procedure, and that the use ofsome pain-reducing drugs may have health risks associated with them.
As a result of his unwavering support for abortion-on-demand, Emanuel hasconsistently received ratings of 100 percent from NARAL and Planned Parenthood. These ratings indicate thatEmanuel’s votes and stated positions on abortion-related matters have mirrored,literally without exception, the positions of these organizations. Indeed, since at least 1995 Emanuel has supported the agendas ofPlanned Parenthood fully 100 percent of the time.
Finally, note Emanuel’s stance on gay marriage. In September 2004 he voted against a bill that wouldhave prohibited same-sex marriage, and in July 2006 hevoted against a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage in Americaexclusively as the union of one man and one woman.
By all accounts, Rahm Emmanuel is a savvy political operator. But if his votingrecord is anything to go by, a penchant for centrist accommodation is not amongthe talents he will bring to his new role as White House chief of staff.
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