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Column: Rahm Emanuel Shows Mettle, Preparedness

This story was written by Annie Yuan, Daily Trojan


Meet Rahm Emanuel: patron of obscene language, former ballet dancer extraordinaire and soon-to-be White House chief of staff.

Like many members of President-elect Barack Obamas administration, Emanuel is good-looking, witty and engaging. But unlike Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden, Emanuels appeal does not manifest itself in toothy, crinkle-eyed grins or a likeable, aw-shucks demeanor.

No, Rahm Emanuel is the Urban Dictionary definition of a BAMF.

Unlike your typical politician, Emanuel is brutally honest. While most congressmen refer to each other as my distinguished colleague even when theyre at each others throats, he cuts right to the chase.

Dont fuck it up or... Ill kill you, he once told congressional candidate from Pennsylvania Joe Sestak. All right, I love you. Bye.

No line captures the essence of Emanuels character better. He is at once the cynical, hard-edged political strategist who refers to Washington as Fucknutsville and the soft-spoken, fiercely loyal friend who never once wavered in his devotion to former President Bill Clinton, even after it became clear Clinton had lied to him about his affair.

Clinton later expressed his gratitude by endorsing Emanuels 2002 run for the House of Representatives. Rahm helped me be a much better president, he told a crowd in Chicago. Im honored to be here with him.

Afterward, Emanuel beamed up at Clinton and said, with tears glistening in his usually blazing eyes, Thank you, Mr. President. I was always at your side, and I will always be at your side.

Emanuels paradoxical nature is precisely what members of rahmbamarama fell in love with. The week-old online community currently boasts nearly 1,000 users, most of whom are female. They have adopted Emanuels trademark expletive-abusing ways and emphasize their points by typing everything in caps lock, especially when commenting on attractive pictures of Emanuel or pieces of fan art featuring Emanuel in a tutu.

As bizarre as the idea of a politician with fangirls seems, Emanuels following is warranted. He is just as dramatic as any Hollywood celebrity. Take his methods of dealing with his enemies, for instance.

Everyone has heard about the time Emanuel sent a rotting two-and-a-half-foot fish to a pollster who displeased him, but the best story takes place at a celebratory party after Clintons 1992 election. In the middle of dinner, Emanuel, then Clintons chief fundraiser, leapt to his feet, shouted the name of one of Clintons enemies and plunged his steak knife into the table.

Dead! he bellowed, and then proceeded to repeat the process with the names of other enemies, each time bringing the knife down on the table with increasing force.

It should come as no surprise that critics constantly attack Emanuel for lacking ethics, convictions and principles. In many respects, theyre probably right.

But Emanuel is no stranger to hard work and perseverance.

Emanuel grew up in an intensely competitive family. Failure wasnt an option, he said of his childhood. The early accomplishments of his brothers, Ezekiel and Ari, drove Emanuel to double his efforts to rise to the top in ballet and later start anew in politics when it became clear he wasnt meant to succeed as a dancer.

At the age of 17, Emanuel severed half his right middle finger (I had to learn to talk with my left hand, he joked) and nearly died of a bacterial infection after he went swimming with his graduating class without seeking medical attention first. While no doubt more a mark of stupidity than strength, the incident does highlight a key characteristic of Emanuels: He isnt easily deterred, not even by a severed body part.

Even as an adult, Emanuel never stopped going. In just two and a half years working at an investment bank, he earned a whopping $16 million. Later, during his run for Congress, he woke up at sunrise every morning to stand at a Chicago train station and greet the constituents he hoped to represent.

In the political world, Emanuel is best known for his dedication to his party. As chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Emanuel launched an extensive, two-year campaign to get Democrats back into the House in the 2006 elections.

With the ingenuity of Pete Carroll during recruiting season, Emanuel sent free cheesecakes to potential Democratic candidates across the country before narrowing them down to the 50 he believed had the drive to win. He also raised millions of dollars even though any donations of $5,000 or less were considered insulting and were promptly hung up on.

Emanuel spent those two years glued to his phone as he zipped from state to state, but despite the severe stress he suffered as Election Day approached, he still found time to call his wife, Amy, several times a day to check up on her and their three children.

In the end, Emanuels efforts paid off. The Democratic Party seized 30 seats, reclaiming the majority in the House for the first time in 12 years.

Which brings us to what Emanuel can accomplish in the White House. The next chief of staff will need to advise and manage an administration that faces a country in the midst of social and economic upheaval. Who better to do that than a man whose primary goal is to succeed at all costs?

Whether hes inspiring cult fangirl followings or orchestrating sweeps of Congress, there is no doubt Rahm Emanuel can get the job done. Hes no saint but whoever heard of a saintly politician, anyway?

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