Did Rahm Emanuel Use Dana Milbank As An Amanuensis?

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on February 24, 2010

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Well, that would be the question, now wouldn’t it?

Critics left and right are accusing Rahm Emanuel of disloyalty-by-proxy after a Dana Milbank column in Sunday’s Washington Post defended the White House chief of staff – while trashing reputed Emanuel rivals Valerie Jarrett and Robert Gibbs.

There’s not a shred of proof that Emanuel fed Milbank the Rahm-friendly intel included in the piece – or that he was the source of a tart comparison of President Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter. And in fact, Milbank said Monday in a live chat on the Post website that he didn’t speak to Emanuel for the piece.

“I didn’t talk to Rahm for this column, or for anything else recently. His people were also disinclined to help me with this column, out of fear of just the reaction that would occur: people would suggest he spoon fed it to me,” Milbank said.

But critics from MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough to widely-read D.C. blogger Steve Clemons see telltale signs of Emanuel’s involvement.

On Monday’s “Morning Joe,” Scarborough, an Emanuel opponent of long standing, all but accused him of blaming Obama for not following his advice to move ahead more aggressively on jobs and recovery bills after health reform stalled in the Senate.

“Dana Milbank wrote a story where he said: ‘If only the president had followed Rahm everything would be okay.’ It certainly sounds like Rahm was leaking like a sieve to Dana Milbank,” said Scarborough. “It appears that Rahm has become quite promiscuous in telling anybody who will listen to him about how he tried to coach the president.”

Okay, there is a lot of doubt concerning this story. No one is really sure what happened. As the story indicates, there is no proof whatsoever that Emanuel talked to Milbank and had him write a story in which Emanuel trashed the President and his colleagues.

But it is worth noting that the “no-drama Obama” team has become anything but. The backbiting that was at one point held off-stage, is coming to the fore. Everyone knows that Rahm Emanuel hasn’t exactly gotten along well with Valerie Jarrett, and I suspect that because of the Emanuel-Jarrett split, there now exists a pretty dramatic division within the White House staff. There is a power struggle afoot in the White House, and the story behind the struggle is only going to receive more attention.

That won’t exactly do much to help President Obama pass his agenda. Especially given that Milbank’s story stated that Rahm Emanuel was the only person keeping Barack Obama from becoming another Jimmy Carter. Presidents can’t afford to look weak, and Milbank–possibly with Emanuel’s help–made Barack Obama look weak.

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