Snot and Centrists

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Megan McArdle says:

I’ve heard two superficially plausible and, I think, completely contradictory narratives of what the Rahm Emmanuel appointment means. One: that Barack Obama is taking his administration in a more pragmatic, less ideological direction. Two: that Barack Obama is looking for a hatchet man to beat the snot out of the Republicans. Which is true? I’m not enough of an insider to even hazard a guess. But it’s interesting how the same piece of information can plausibly tell two utterly different stories.

I don’t think these are really contradictory ideas. The idea that hard-core partisanship and being a hard-core ideologue go together is a mistake. Big liberals are often relatively un-partisan because they have all kinds of gripes with various Democrats along with their gripes with Republicans. By contrast, someone dedicated to partisanship uber alles is going, by definition, to need a lot of ideological flexibility.

Meanwhile, from where I sit it’s hard to read these tea leaves. Emanuel has extensive high-level experience as a White House staffer and as a congressional leader and has a personal relationship with Obama. Those are, generically, good qualifications for a chief of staff. If there were three people with that kind of background all with different ideological leanings, then the choice of person could be seen as having great ideological significance. But that’s not the situation.