My colleague Mark Brown provides a unique look into Rahm Emanuel in his Sunday column, "Emanuel's political climb leaves an old friendship on back burner"
And here's the top of my column:
Call him abrasive, cold-blooded, arrogant, manipulative, fierce loyalist, even charming, if it serves his business purpose.
Call him a master political strategist who just out-roved Karl Rove, Bush's politics guru.
Call him a policy wonk, which he would prefer, since it fits his evolving self-image better.
You may correctly call Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) all of the above.
And here is a prediction: Someday, you may be calling Emanuel "Mr. Speaker."
Emanuel's potential trajectory is set as a result of his key role in the Democrats retaking the House last Tuesday. He has been the chief of the House Democratic political operation for the last 22 months.
Takes No. 4 post for now
By almost two decades, Emanuel, who turns 47 on Nov. 29, becomes the youngest member of the incoming House Democratic leadership team when the new Congress is sworn in in January.
He is taking the fourth-ranking leadership post for his reward, rather than the third-ranking slot he could have easily argued he earned. Emanuel saw no reason to get in a fight for third place with an African-American rival who already put in for the job, when the prize that is worth fighting for is one day to be No. 1.
With Emanuel so much in the news, here is a refresher -- the essential Emanuel:
Family home: Traded up from Far North Side Chicago for Wilmette. Graduated from New Trier West. Israeli father, Benjamin, a pediatrician; mother, Marsha, a social worker. Undergraduate Sarah Lawrence; master's in communications from Northwestern University.
Sibs: Ari, super agent to Hollywood stars; Ezekiel, a physician, chairman of the department of bioethics at the National Institutes of Health; Shoshana, rarely mentioned.
Family: Wife, Amy; two daughters and a son. Sliced off tip of index finger of right hand working at a local Arbys at age 17. Ballet dancer.
Political resume: 1980s, starts with Illinois Public Action Council: runs House Democratic field operations. Fund-raiser for Sen. Paul Simon, Mayor Daley campaigns. Launches alliance with media strategist David Axelrod, his key adviser.
1990s, starts his opposition research firm. 1991, joins the Bill Clinton presidential campaign, moves to Little Rock, Ark. Saves Clinton by raising millions while Clinton is dogged by the Gennifer Flowers scandal.
Clinton White House years: Rewarded with job as White House political director in January 1993. Demoted by June. Resurrected by taking on NAFTA (with Bill Daley), other policy projects. Escapes controversy during impeachment. Leaves White House in 1998, never having to hire a lawyer. Clinton loyalist.
Chicago: Returns to Ravenswood, makes millions as an investment banker in a few deals; tapped by Clinton for a plum spot on Freddie Mac board; Daley appointee on CHA board. Wins House seat in 2002 with help of Daley Machine. Daley loyalist.
Congress: Came in with a running start because he knew Dem leaders from Clinton White House and was seen as a fund-raiser who could work the elite donor network. Demands seat on Ways and Means Committee as price for taking on political job; chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The best quote: "He's as cold-blooded as I need him to be to make the decisions." -- House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Emanuel, May 27 National Journal.