Politics is a rough business. But every so often, amid all the partistan bickering, the parry and thrust of Beltway combat is briefly suspended and a little human emotion shines forth. Such is the case this morning with David Brooks’ extra-mushy paean to Rahm Emanuel, which is perhaps the most embarrassingly heartfelt eruption of guy-love ever published by the paper.
It turns out Rahmbo, as he’s known, is actually no bully! Now that he’s leaving the West Wing, the truth is coming out. He’s more of a little Lahm! A Bahmbi, if you will. If you saw Andy Samberg’s foul-mouthed take on the former chief of staff (below), you got the wrong idea. This is not a guy who’d “strap his children to the front end of a steam locomotive,” or who’d walk up to you in a locker room, “naked as a jaybird,” and poke a finger in your chest, as Rep. Eric Massa put it.
Not that he doens’t poke. He pokes! Brooks’ column, “The Soft Side,” compares Emanuel to “an urban cowboy” with a herd of cattle, noting that, “Every head in the herd gets a poke every day.” This is America, of course, and there’s nothing homoerotic about a cowboy riding the range or even poking things. But what to make of Brooks’ mention of showing up at Emanuel’s office “wearing my asbestos underwear”? Or his assertion that “any smart pat of butter would spot him at 100 yards and flee,” because “he’s not one of these butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-his-mouth guys.”
That’s some pretty hot stuff for a family newspaper.
It goes on. “From the moment kids are asked to subdue their passions in order to get straight As…” Brooks continues, edging closer, it seems, to a touchy-feely personal confession of his own, “people have an incentive to suppress their passions and prune their souls.” No prune juice for David Brooks, who concludes, “He is a full human being, rich and fertile”—yes, fertile—”from the inside out.”
Somehow the columnist neglects to mention Emanuel’s training as a ballet dancer, but he’s only got so much space, and a whole lot of heart to fill it with.
I don’t doubt for a second that Rahm Emanuel is a sweetie-pie. And props to Brooks for being man enough to say so. Still, there was something appealing about the bad-ass chief of staff, the guy spouted expletives, was missing a finger, volunteered in the IDF and inspired fear in the hearts of Republicans and wayward Dems alike. Here he is, in all his glory: