Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel blasted liberal Democrat special-interest groups as “f—ing retarded” during a meeting with Democrats in August. While Emanuel’s reputation for being brash and profane has, until this point, been harmless or mildly offensive at worst, with this statement he clearly crossed the line of political correctness.
With his background as a core member of the Clinton administration, namely as the president’s senior advisor from 1993 to 1998, and, most recently with his service in the House of Representatives, representing the fifth district of Illinois, Emanuel cannot hide from the barrage of media attacks under the camouflage of inexperience. No matter how tempting, he cannot conveniently suggest the meeting was private, and his comments should therefore be disregarded, since the meeting was called to discuss politics, regardless of the fact that no Republicans were present.
Even if he were to make such a suggestion, he has no ground upon which to stand. By their nature, a number of occupations remain permanently in the public eye; politicians hold positions of leadership in society and so fall into this category. Like students keeping their watchful eyes on teachers, the public keeps a perpetually vigilant watch on politicians, waiting for them to misstep so the vulturous onlookers can swoop in and pick apart their carrion.
Appropriately, Emanuel has issued apologies in many directions, the most substantial of which was to Timothy Shriver, chairman and chief executive of the Special Olympics. “Rahm called Tim Shriver Wednesday to apologize and the apology was accepted … [The] White House remains committed to addressing the concerns and needs of Americans living with disabilities and recognizes that derogatory remarks demean us all,” the official press release stated. In all actuality though, the remark was offensive, it shouldn’t have received the press that it did, especially in light of “Rahmbo’s” predisposed tendency to mouth off insensitively.
Emanuel’s words compelled former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to use the platform of her Facebook page to implore President Obama to fire Emanuel for what she saw as the equivalent of a racial slur. Facebook, most frequently advertised as the nation’s largest political jab website, was obviously the most appropriate venue for such a derision. But, in the former governor’s defense, without a political platform to stand on, alternate routes must be used, and books can only say so much.
Palin did draw fire from the mercenaries of comedy, who were delighted to find the cache of ammunition she left lying on the side of the road. Saturday Night Live opened last Saturday with Andy Samberg as Rahm Emanuel issuing a passive and pseudo-sincere apology to the main camera and making provocative (more characteristic of Emanuel’s true style) sidebar comments to the camera to his right. His sidebar comment to Palin was amusing, “You come after me on Facebook? What?!? Are you 14?”
Steven Colbert also launched a few salvos at Palin after she was interviewed on Fox News and tried to distinguish Emanuel’s use of the “R word” from Rush Limbaugh’s use of the word as defensible since Limbaugh’s use was satirical (implying that all of his show would be satire).
As for the president’s decision, should he terminate Emanuel? After all, Obama hired him to leverage his political experience, contacts and no-nonsense style to help him achieve his agenda and objectives. A one-word insensitivity probably doesn’t rise to the level of being a terminable offense. Those looking to guillotine the chief of staff might do better to look for the axe labeled “ineffective at achieving his bosses objectives.”
So, while we are all cognizant of (and sensitive to the fact that) Mrs. Palin, being the mother of a child with Down Syndrome, might have a compelling protective instinct to call for more respectful behavior from our public officials, she would be better served to speak up on issues that truly necessitate political action and, in issues like this one, to demand reparations that are more suitable to the crime.
Reid Roman is a freshman majoring in industrial and systems engineering.