So just who is the Illinois Congressman who will be the new White House Chief of Staff? Well, he’s definitely someone you don’t want on your bad side.
So just who is the Illinois Congressman who will be the new White House Chief of Staff? Well, he’s definitely someone you don’t want on your bad side. Men’s Journal got the chance to sit down with Emmanuel earlier this year…at which point he told us he would certainly NOT be going back to work in the White House.
interviewed by Jordan Heller
MJ: Some of your detractors say you curse too much. Do you think it’s appropriate for a U.S. congressman to use the f-word?
RE: Look, my dad’s from Israel, and my mother’s from what I refer to as the old country, the west side of Chicago. Being told you were a “blank schmuck” or, “What kind of blank stupid statement was that?” was a way of saying, “I love you.” But there was a British study done, too, which I sent around the office, about how swearing by management helps lift morale. So I consider it a morale booster.
MJ: You once mailed a dead fish to a pollster who ticked you off, and you’ve been known to yell at and hang up on donors and members of the media. Ever worry you’re taking the pit bull thing too far?
RE: I’m a former ballet dancer. I just prefer standing on my toes, not on my heels. You can’t ever dance on your heels. So I prefer leaning forward. And if it rubs people the wrong way, then I just tell them I apologize, but I believe what we’re doing here is worth fighting for. When you’ve got Tom DeLay and Karl Rove on the other side, who are willing to do what they gotta do, the only difference between me and others is that I gave them a piece of the medicine they’ve been shoving at us, and they didn’t like it.
MJ: The Josh Lyman character on The West Wing has been rumored to be modeled after you, and Entourage’s Ari Gold is famously based on your brother Ari. Which Emanuel brother approximation is more accurate?
RE: Ari and I regularly tease our oldest brother Ezekiel [who, as a world-renowned bioethicist and medical doctor, is arguably the most accomplished of the Emanuels] that he has let the family down because he doesn’t have a character on TV. But seriously, I called Ari after seeing the show, and I said, “Hey, I finally caught Entourage.” And he said, “Yeah, what did you think?” I said, “I like Ari Gold more than I like you!”
MJ: Your new role as chairman of the Democratic Caucus is more policy-oriented than the political role you had in 2006. How are you using the position to help maintain and perhaps further the Democratic hold on the House in 2008?
RE: A colleague of mine from the White House and I wrote a book about ideas (The Plan: Big Ideas for America) to address the fundamental problems facing the country. It had nothing to do with politics and verything to do with policy. I’m in this for policy. The successful politicians, if you look at history, have both sides of the brain functioning [policy and politics]. You can’t separate them, because all good policy is good politics, but not the other way around. I’m not gonna be pegged as either a political guy or a policy guy. You gotta do both.
MJ: For the 2008 elections, are you going to continue to advise Democratic Congressmen and candidates to avoid appearing on The Colbert Report?
RE: He’s very funny and all that, but the fact is, you’re there as his foil, for him to make fun of you. If I want that, I’ll go talk to my wife.
MJ: If the Democrats win the general election, would you consider going back to the White House?
RE: No. I loved working for President Clinton; I thought it was an honor. But my job now is to the people in Chicago who elected me, to represent them here. I made that commitment, and I’m going to stick by that commitment. And I’m having a blast.