Dana Milbank on Glenn Beck, Rahm Emanuel

Feb 22, 2010

Dana Milbank discusses his columns about Glenn Beck and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and takes your questions about the latest political news.

Looks like a lot of questions about Rahmbo, and lots of speculation at Politico and elsehwere about my Sunday column and whether Rahm was the source of it.

Obviously reporters don't reveal sources, but I'm happy to say who wasn't my source.  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.

It's worth noting that nobody seems to be questioning the argument itself in a serious way, which I take to be a good sign. 


You hit the nail on the head when you compared Obama's Chicago campaign staff' to Jimmy Carter's Georgia staff: same arrogance coupled with ignorance (about how DC works).

The Chicago folks don't have that chip-on-the-shoulder attitude that the GA folks came to town with but they did arrive with a "we're going to show you how things should be done" air. With all the former Clinton WH staff working for Obama, I was always amazed at the blunders repeatedly made (and not just in policy or dealings with Congress).

He really needs to replace Jarrett & Axelrod et al as soon as possible.


Glad you agree. I tried to make a slight distinction between Gibbs and Jarrett, who I think are doing the president harm, and Axelrod, who serves a valuable function even if he's not in the right role.  There's nothing wrong with having a Karl Rove/Mike Deaver guy on the staff, he just should handle the politics and leave the governing to other people.


Is it my imagination or has Beck shifted away from supporting Republican ideologues at all costs to attacking the source of the rotting smell in DC regardless of its source, right or left.? If the latter were the case, he would gain one regular listener.


As you may know I'm at work on a book about the phenomenon that is Glenn Beck, so I went to Saturday's speech at CPAC expecting his usual shtick.  I was impressed by the extent to which he turned on the Republican Party.   He's certainly always been less of a party guy than, say, Hannity, but this went further than I'd heard him go before.  If it's for real, it's a welcome change.



Do you know if Sen. Larry Craig has taken a stance on the health care issue?

He has asked for a narrow bill.

Dana, Did you notice that part of Rubio's speech decried President Obama for his use of teleprompters, yet Rubio was reading his speech off of a teleprompter? That made me chuckle.

The first three CPAC speakers made a variation of the teleprompter joke.  I think in fairness to Rubio he was reading his speech (carefully) from paper, but the prompters were definitely up and he was looking back and forth mechanically, so it gave the appearance that he was using the hated technology.

I love Glenn Beck and appreciate him for what he is - a Modern Day P.T. Barnum. I'm actually kind of jealous, but I get jealous whenever I see people taking advantage of Rubes desperate to part with their money. It doesn't really matter if every other word out of his mouth is a lie, he gives the people what they want - bread and circuses.

Exactly.  Love him or hate him, he's a marketing genius.   That is why I am taking a very open-minded perspective on him as I write the book, as demonstrated by its working title, "Tears of a Clown."

It occurred to me that someone had to have had a purpose in leaking to you all the times that Emanuel's advice was rejected. "If only they had listened to Rahm....", serves no one better than Rahm.

Is his position actually in jeopardy? Is his counsel more likely to be followed going forward?

We've dealth with the first part of this, but as for whether his position is in jeopardy: I suspect so, but no more or less than he was before my column.   Obviously it would be a huge mistake to get rid of him.   A better question is why he'd want to stay on the job if his advice isn't being followed.   My own hunch (and, again, I haven't asked him about this) is he regrets taking the job in the first place.

Oh, come on. If he would have been "Anti-Washington" while his political party was in power, I would buy this act. But, he's up their pretending like he hasn't been a dyed-in-the-wool GOP mouthpiece for the last 8 years. Oh he's against government spending now.

I'd buy it more if he was against it when his boys were spending the money. He's pretending to be "against both parties" because it's the Conservative Populist Meme Du Jour.

See, he's such a good entertainer that I've already fallen for him after just an hour in his presence.

I have come to deeply admire Evan Bayh and am total agreement with his observations upon announcing his decision not to seek re-election.

My view, which he must have considered, is running as a Democrat in this election, then declaring his independence some time after the election, and come out as the voice of non-partisan reason in the Senate -- letting everyone have it.

This strategy would have allowed him to lay the groundwork for re-election as an independent in 6 years or the platform to run for President as a "non-partisan". I'd like your reaction. Thanks.

I understand why he's not running, but I don't admire him for it.  I admired him more when he was committed to staying here and doing the lonely work of legislating.  Admittedly, my admiration had already started to slip when he began wearing the white running shoes with his suits.  I understand it's a medical condition, but couldn't he at least get a pair of Ted Stevens orthopedic shoes in black?

Dana: At first I thought I was hallucinating or something when I heard that the John Birch Society was an official sponsor of CPAC. But thanks to a spare 5 seconds to Google, I found out it was true.

These are the people who espoused the idea that Dwight Eisenhower was an agent of the international communist conspiracy--they are also the people William F. Buckley famously declared to be beyond the pale of modern conservatism.

Yet, there they were, sponsoring CPAC. So...what gives?

Dunno, maybe they're reformed, like Bill Ayers?  I haven't looked into that, but it does fit with the vibe given off at the Marriott Wardman Park, celebrating Gitmo, making torture jokes and having Ann Coulter give her thoughts on Anderson Cooper's sexual orientation.

Did Emanuel really send a dead fish to a pollster? Did Emanuel really say that he lost part of a finger while fighting with the IDF?

Missing digit: an accident as a teenager while working at Arby's.   I am awaiting speculation that Valerie Jarrett was operating the meatslicer at the time.

Dead fish: Probably apocryphal, but useful.  By contrast, I received a fresh Maine lobster this morning from Rahm. (Note to Politico: That is a joke. It was actually sushi-grade tuna.)



Is this some sort of early April Fool's joke? So how much is Rahm paying you for these articles? Rahm needs to be fired for all his miscalculations. He has cost the President a lot. Time to go!!

Glad to have you on this chat, Valerie.

My only payment, as noted, was the sushi grade tuna, line caught and packed in dry ice. Plus some fresh ginger and wasabi, under separate cover.

Hey Dana, what do you make of Rod Blago's new book and his demand to release all of the tapes? What are the odds they could hurt Rahm? Any chance Obama would invoke privileged to stop their release?

Blago just keeps on giving, God bless him.

Another gift: In an hour from now, George Washington's farewell address will be read on the Senate floor by none other than Roland Burris, the honorable gentleman from Blagojevich.

How can you take anything Glenn Beck says seriously when he says it without bursting into tears?

I think I almost cried at the end of the CPAC speech, but it could have been the sweat; was very hot in there and he was given a towel midway through.


Dana, why aren't you on Bill Maher's show? I defy anyone to do snark better than you.

I did do his show once but I was eaten by my fellow panelist Roseanne Barr.

Beck suggests that the way for republicans to succeed is not to suck as much as the Democrats. That leaves open the possibility that they should try to suck more than they do now. Is that even possible?

Hard to tell where the bottom is.  They're about to vote down a jobs bill today.   With so much bipartisan sucking going on up here on Capitol Hill the place could become a black hole.

Dana, Who would the President choose between Rahm and Valerie Jarrett to stay at the White House?

There seems to be a power struggle between them. I agree with you about Rahm and Jarrett only keeps her job because of her relationship with the President and Michelle Obama.

That's probably the fundamental question now, and will indicate whether he's more Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter. The notion of being FDR really isn't on the menu right now -- things are just too broken for anybody to be transformational.

Dana, Did you see the episode of South Park where Eric Cartman essentially turns into Glenn Beck in a witch-hunt against the Student Body President? It was good stuff.

No but I must look into this as part of my scholarly book research. 

Over on Mr. Kurtz's chat earlier today, several posters bemoaned the extensive CPAC coverage by your paper and others. I have to disagree -- the more we see of Beck's wacky theatrics and Pawlenty's off the wall attempt to be topical by invoking Tiger Woods, the better. Dana, what do you think?

I agree with you.  The more coverage of the wacky, the better.  And given that there's nothing but wackiness in Washington at the moment, it's not much of a choice anyway.

What a phony. He simultaneously denounces partisanship and ideology as if they were synonyms and not closer to antonyms.

Partisanship is voting with your party despite your beliefs. Ideology is voting for your beliefs despite your party.

You can't be against both. Bayh is an absolute mediocrity with no courage. Was Bayh being ideological, partisan or cowardly when he voted for the Iraq war? It is hard to imagine a more loathsome person taking his place. In that sense he should be thanked for leaving.

True, that. It's one thing to denounce ideologues, but even moderates have ideology.  

Can you give me advice on how I can determine when your'e giving a serious answer and when you're "snarking"? The two seem to blend.

I have been serious about everything here except the fish.  Rahm did not send me lobster. He did not even send me sushi grade tuna with wasabi and ginger.  He sent me nothing more than pickled herring, and I don't even like that.

Glenn was the awesomenest ever. He had the guts to tell the audience how to fix the problem in American right now. He used logical examples from history to do it. He had the moral fortitude to explain it his way, with good clear concise examples from history. Now it's time for politicians to listen and learn. It's time for the American people to contact their legislators and make a difference. Time for us to save Our country. Look forward to your response.


The absolute awesomenest.

Gibbs, Jarret, Rahm, Geithner or Summers?

I'm betting Gibbs. He is such a hack. Obama should write "you're fired" on his hand and flash it at Gibbs.

But Geithner is running scared.  I'm told he went to participate in a Michelle Obama event on obese children, so he must be running scared.

Ok, thanks for chatting today. I'm off to watch Senator Blago read George Washington, to be followed by the failure of the Senate jobs bill.   Just as soon as I finish this smoked salmon that Rahm just had delivered to me in the Senate press gallery.

In This Chat
Dana Milbank
Dana Milbank writes the Washington Sketch column about political theater in the capital. He joined The Post as a political reporter in 2000, after two years as a senior editor of The New Republic and eight years with the Wall Street Journal. He is also author of two political books, Homo Politicus (Doubleday, 2008) and Smashmouth (Basic Books, 2001). He lives in Washington with his wife and daughter.

Read Dana's chat archive and his recent columns.
Recent Chats
  • Next: