What worse scenario could there be for Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), who fiercely values loyalty, than to have to choose between the 2008 presidential candidacies of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.)?
"I think that I am going to hide under this desk if both of them ran," said Emanuel.
Emanuel was meeting with the Sun-Times' editorial board and top brass so I pressed on, sort of having home-field advantage.
Emanuel is close friends with Clinton and Obama. Emanuel's path to fame started when he moved to Little Rock, Ark., to work on Bill Clinton's presidential campaign, later joining the Clinton White House.
Before Obama started openly flirting with a White House bid, Emanuel told me he would be for Clinton if she ran.
Neither Clinton nor Obama have decided what they will do about 2008, so I stipulate I was pressing a hypothetical question. If both got in, what would Emanuel do?
"It involves two values that I hold dear about myself and about who I am, which is loyalty and friendship,'' Emanuel said. "I have both a loyalty to both of them and a friendship to both of them."
Emanuel continued, "Forget me for a second. They both have a tremendous amount to offer the country and our party." He borrowed a phrase from Bill Clinton to describe the embarrassment of riches he could face. Choosing between Hillary and Barack, Emanuel said, "is nothing but an uptown problem."
On other matters, Emanuel said:
• • Democrats will make a major push next year for universal health insurance coverage for uninsured children.
• • He is not looking to depose Howard Dean as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, despite a nasty public feud with him before the Nov. 7 balloting. Emanuel accused Dean of not spending enough money on congressional races. They plan to breakfast together soon.
For good relations, said Emanuel, "there is nothing that replaces winning."
• • Emanuel, who vaulted to House leadership last week after helping engineer the Democrats' takeover of the House, said he would recommend that Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) be given the slot he covets on the Transportation Committee.