WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden is rolling out his appointments, and whether there is a slot for Rahm Emanuel depends on if he fits into the emerging mosaic.
Maybe yes. Maybe no.
Biden has an extraordinarily deep bench of talent to select from, coming from his eight years as Barack Obama’s vice president and his decades in the Senate. That deep bench includes Emanuel and many others with equally impressive resumes and experience in policy, politics, elected and appointed positions.
There is no priority to find a spot for Emanuel, several sources tell me.
Fueling speculation about Emanuel — perhaps for Transportation Secretary or something else — is, in part, because he is a personality and everyone knows he knows Biden and key figures in his orbit.
Emanuel is exceptionally well connected with Biden having served as Obama’s first chief of staff. Emanuel is close to three men who were Biden’s chief of staff when he was vice president:
That’s Ron Klain, who will be Biden’s White House chief of staff; Steve Ricchetti, who will be a counselor to the new president; and Bruce Reed, who is expected to have some role in the new administration or an allied outside group. Reed and Emanuel co-authored the 2006 policy book, “The Plan: Big Ideas for America.”
Biden promised a diverse administration. He’s already made history on that front.
The president-elect tapped the first females to be Treasury Secretary — Janet Yellen — and Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. Haines graduated from the University of Chicago in 1992 with a bachelor of arts in physics.
Biden also selected the first Hispanic — and immigrant — to lead the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban-American Jew.
As Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said Tuesday, speaking after Biden introduced his national security and foreign policy team, “When Joe asked me to be his running mate, he told me about his commitment to making sure we selected a cabinet that looks like America — that reflects the very best of our nation. That is what we have done.”
Emanuel is a white, straight, moderate male who happens to be Jewish.
There are only so many of those slots to go around even if Emanuel were not controversial, which he is.
Before he was Obama’s chief of staff, Emanuel was in House leadership — he flipped the chamber to the Democrats in 2006 when he led the House political shop. He was elected Chicago mayor twice. He did a stint in the Clinton White House.
The plus: Emanuel has vast knowledge of how the federal government works. That led to infrastructure dollars flowing to the city when he was mayor, especially to rebuild the CTA Red Line on the city’s South Side.
The minus: Chicagoans and the nation are familiar with Emanuel’s poor mayoral record on handling the 2014 police killing of a Black teen, Laquan McDonald — shot 16 shots by a white officer. Emanuel sparked an uproar with the closing of Chicago Public Schools in Black neighborhoods.
After leaving City Hall, Emanuel signed on as an ABC political analyst and as a senior adviser at Centerview Partners, an investment banking firm. He wrote another book, “The Nation City: Why Mayors Are Now Running the World.”
Biden is weighing many factors as he fills in his personnel chart. Biden has talked about how he owes his election to Black voters. His failing primary bid was rescued by Black supporters in South Carolina.
Boston Globe columnist Renée Graham, in a piece posted Tuesday headlined, “Rahm Emanuel doesn’t deserve a job in Biden’s administration,” wrote, “How Biden will govern and what he will prioritize can be read in those he chooses to serve with him. Assembling a cabinet is the prologue to a presidency, and while each selection won’t satisfy everyone, they should at the very least avoid alienating an administration’s most loyal constituency.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., one of the nation’s most influential progressives, told the New York Times earlier this month, if Biden picked Emanuel for a job, “it would signal, I think, a hostile approach to the grass-roots and the progressive wing of the party.”
Since then, AOC has been leading a drive against Emanuel, gaining outsized attention because of her own celebrity and her powerful Twitter feed.
Biden’s campaign kept moderates and progressives united in working to defeat President Donald Trump. He’s juggling appointments to avoid divisions and distractions and strengthen alliances. Emanuel is a piece among many in the Biden personnel jigsaw puzzle — and for now, still in the box.