Why Lindsey Graham Is Trying to Rescue Rahm Emanuel

By Jeff Cohen

With civil rights groups and progressive members of Congress staunchly opposed to disgraced former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel becoming a prestigious ambassador, Emanuel is appealing for support from a set of politicians he has repeatedly relied on in his career: Republicans.

Worried that certain Democratic senators will refuse to back him because of his administration’s infamous cover-up of a horrendous police murder of a black teenager – and other injustices against people of color in Chicago – Emanuel is now busy lining up GOP senators who will confirm him as the next U.S. ambassador to Japan. On Saturday, the Washington Post described Emanuel’s campaign for Republican help as “an aggressive behind-the-scenes effort”; the article’s headline: “Rahm Emanuel, a target of the left, may be rescued by Republicans.

Three GOP senators told the Post that they will proudly vote to confirm Emanuel, including that pillar of integrity: Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.  

 One of Donald Trump’s most sycophantic allies in the Senate, Graham ran cover for Trump during both impeachment trials. That didn’t stop Graham from repeatedly calling last month for Biden’s impeachment over Afghanistan. I’m not kidding.  

 Graham was also a crucial and dishonest ally of Mitch McConnell in the right-wing takeover of the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Now, Graham is an important ally in Emanuel’s campaign for ambassador to Japan. 

This is not the first time Rahm Emanuel has turned to Republicans for rescue. The GOP rescued him in 1993, when he was a key White House aide, as the Clinton administration rammed the NAFTA trade pact though Congress. Most Democrats in Congress – responding to the base of the party, including union and environmental activists – voted no on NAFTA. Years later, Emanuel was still bragging about his role in NAFTA’s passage. 

In 1996, when Republicans in Congress passed a punitive “welfare reform” bill that ended the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, Emanuel was one of the loudest voices in a divided White House urging Clinton not to veto the bill. The president signed it, provoking anger among progressives and high-level resignations from the administration.  

Having entered national politics in 1992 as the top fundraiser from corporate types for Bill Clinton’s first presidential run, Emanuel became known inside the White House for proposing conservative approaches to what were then called “wedge issues” – now known as “dog-whistle racism.” Emanuel urged Clinton to get “tough” on crime and on immigration through more deportations.   

After leaving the Clinton White House, Emanuel worked for a Wall Street firm out of Chicago, making $18 million in 30 months. He then served three terms in Congress before becoming the White House chief of staff under Barack Obama, where he was a strident foe of progressives. At a 2010 meeting with liberal leaders who were planning to pressure conservative Democrats toward supporting healthcare reform, Emanuel – ever the diplomat – referred to them as “fucking retarded.” 

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Emanuel is gaining support from the likes of Lindsey Graham. 

What is surprising is that the Biden White House, with lagging popularity in the polls, is willing to shove its most loyal base – voters and activists of color – under the bus in order to fight for Emanuel’s confirmation. Team Biden finds itself allied with Republicans on behalf of a former scandal-plagued mayor notorious for closing 50 public schools, as well as mental health clinics, in predominantly black and brown neighborhoods in Chicago.  

And then there’s the issue of unaccountable police misconduct under Emanuel and the suppressed dashcam video showing the police murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, shot 16 times by a police officer as he walked away from the officer. The video was conveniently suppressed for 13 months, through the duration of Emanuel’s 2015 reelection campaign. After a judge’s order finally forced the city of Chicago to release the video, a local poll showed that most Chicagoans wanted Mayor Emanuel to resign and few believed that he hadn’t seen the video prior to the court’s order.  

The kind of police video suppression that occurred under Rahm Emanuel would have been outlawed under the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020” that was cosponsored by more than 30 Democratic senators.   

Either Joe Biden and those Democratic senators actually stand for the principle that “black lives matter” or they stand for Rahm Emanuel. They can’t stand for both.  

While several Republican senators have publicly declared their support for Emanuel as ambassador, not one Democrat in the Senate has declared opposition. So far, the silence is deafening. And will be disgraceful if it continues despite all the anti-Rahm outrage coming from black and brown Democrats in the House – from Jamaal Bowman to Cori Bush to Mondaire Jones to AOC.    

When he worked in Washington D.C., the bullying and exceedingly undiplomatic Emanuel earned the nickname “Rahmbo.” He’s the wrong person to be sent to Japan and a region brimming with tensions. If he’s given a pass and allowed to fail upward into this ambassadorship, it will speak horribly of our country. And of Democrats in the Senate who let it happen.   


Jeff Cohen is co-founder of RootsAction.org, a retired journalism professor at Ithaca College, and author of “Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media.” In 1986, he founded the media watch group FAIR.

Occupy Wall Street Anniversary Compilation

Occupy Wall Street Anniversary Compilation

Today is the 10th anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, an intense explosion of popular resistance that was part of a global uprising kicked off by the Arab Spring. Many excellent pieces have come out in recent days; we’re giving you some of the highlights.

How Occupy Wall Street Reshaped America, by Michael Levitin

Rewriting the protest playbook, Occupy introduced a decentralized form of movement organizing that enabled hundreds of city chapters to reinforce and strengthen one another yet remain independent—a sharp break from the traditional, hierarchical structure of protest movements of the past. Pioneering the use of live-stream technology while employing powerful social-media messaging and meme tactics to grow participation both on- and offline, Occupy showed a new generation how to turn social movements into a viral spectacle that seizes control of the public narrative.

Happy Birthday, Occupy Wall Street, by Jonathan Smucker

But if Occupy Wall Street was only about the few thousand people who actively occupied Zuccotti Park, we wouldn’t still be talking about it today. Occupy Wall Street rang in a new common sense about how our economy and political system had been rigged by the few against the many. For three decades prior, it was as if some curse had prevented any mention of class — unless it was “middle class,” said by politicians on repeat. The wealth would trickle down, we were told. The American Dream, the idea that if you worked hard enough you could get ahead, was supposedly achievable by anyone. If you suggested otherwise, you were waging “class warfare” and probably a communist. There was, in the words of Margaret Thatcher, no alternative to unfettered capitalism. (Democrats seemed to agree!)

But three years after the financial meltdown in 2008, it was clear we needed an alternative. The political leadership of both parties had failed to hold anyone meaningfully accountable for what happened. “Banks got bailed out,” as Occupy’s chant went, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, and “we got sold out” with no relief provided to struggling homeowners or other working people who lost their savings overnight.

With Occupy, finally someone was saying “enough.” Like all social movements, it was an indicator of widespread strain and popular grievances. That’s why its language of the “99 percent versus the 1 percent” is still very much part of the popular vernacular, and Occupy’s critique of the consolidation of wealth and political power in our society has been a lens through which millions have interpreted the events of the past decade. Maybe the Occupiers looked a little strange, but at least someone was standing up to the fuckers at the top.

Did Occupy Wall Street Make a Difference? By Ruth Milkman, Stephanie Luce and Penny Lewis

Occupy famously aimed to create inclusive horizontal structures that maximized participation and democracy, yet it soon was plagued by “the tyranny of structurelessness,” in Jo Freeman’s unforgettable phrase from the 1960s. As the movement mushroomed, meetings of the General Assembly were increasingly dominated by white and male voices and got bogged down in speechifying, rendering decision-making nearly impossible. The participants came from a wide variety of backgrounds and political orientations, which led to clashes. Meetings were also vulnerable to disruption and infiltration: As protest consultant Lisa Fithian told us, “You can’t keep the police out of an open movement space.”

How Occupy Wall Street Led to Bernie Sanders, by Jay Ponti/Julianna Forlano

Julianna welcomes author and organizer Jay Ponti about the 10 year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street!  Jay, founder of Be The Revolution was on the ground during the Occupy’s encampment period and is behind many successful actions. His book, The Political Revolutionary’s Handbook, not only gives an in inside look into the organizing that launched that movement, but makes the case that The Occupy Wall Street network is directly responsible for the political rise and presidential bids of Senator Bernie Sanders. 

#BankExit #BeTheRevolution

How Occupy Wall Street spawned a decade of protest, politics, and social media, by Sean Captain

Police cleared Zuccotti Park in the wee hours of November 15 and evicted many other occupations in the days before and weeks after, although some persisted for several more months. And the movement had a brief renewal with a march on May Day 2012. But within less than a year, Occupy Wall Street went from a media sensation to a distant memory.

Yet the kernel of Occupy remains in the way Americans talk about economic inequality. Occupy also fired up activists who went off to a variety of movements on the left, including the Bernie Sanders presidential campaigns, Black Lives Matter, the fight for a living wage, and climate-change activism. It also helped pioneer the use of social media as a medium for protest with reach far beyond that of any in-person event.

In short, even though Occupy didn’t last long, its lasting influence is all around us.

Oil Companies and Mercenaries - Two Flavors That Go Well Together

By Alleen Brown, The Intercept

The head of security for the oil transport company Enbridge built his résumé managing Exxon Mobil’s response to community protests in Nigeria and helping oversee Amazon’s Global Security Operations Center, a division that has monitored environmental groups and union organizers. Now, at Enbridge, Troy Kirby oversees efforts to combat a protest movement aimed at stopping construction of the company’s Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota. Enbridge’s security operation has drawn criticism for its efforts to influence the police response to the Indigenous-led movement, whose members are known as water protectors.

“These are the people that specialize in the dark arts. Maybe it’s a bit more banal than we might imagine, but these are the spooks.” Enbridge’s response to the water protectors is part of a pattern of megacorporations working to quell resistance to their environmentally harmful activities. Enbridge’s close cooperation with police, including payments and intelligence sharing, has been deemed by academics and water protector critics as emblematic of corporate counterinsurgency — a suite of tactics, ranging from public relations campaigns to surveillance and support for armed force, designed to win over communities to controversial profit-making projects.

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Occupy Wall Street - Ten Years On (Video)

By Bill McGarvey, Wagingnonviolence

September 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protest that took over Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan for two tumultuous months in 2011. The action began with little fanfare on Sept. 17, 2011, but soon captured worldwide attention. It ultimately inspired similar protests across the United States and in many international cities for its commentary on extreme income inequality and the gap between the wealthiest 1 percent and the rest of society.

“#Occupy@10: An Oral History” is a short documentary (30 minutes) produced by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, or FOR-USA, that tells the story of Occupy through the eyes of seven interfaith leaders and activists who participated in Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Oakland. They include Rev. Michael Ellick from Judson Memorial Church, Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt from the Fourth Universalist Society, Rev. Sandhya Rani Jha and Rev. Nichola Torbett, as well as Union Theological Seminary students Carolyn Klaasen and Matthew Arlyck and journalist Nathan Schneider.

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Working-Class Schools Are Key In The Plans To Face Climate Change

By Liza Featherstone, Jacobin

Global warming is here, wreaking havoc and terror, and even as children return to school under uncertain pandemic conditions, our public school system — especially in working-class neighborhoods — is, like so much of American infrastructure, a disgraceful wreckage. Schools are understaffed. Buildings are poorly ventilated, with windows that don’t easily open, and science labs and bathrooms in varying states of disrepair. A new socialist congressman has proposed addressing these problems with a Green New Deal for Public Schools. With a dynamic national organizing campaign, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has been pushing to make it happen.

This summer, as wildfires and hurricanes ravaged the country, newly elected New York congressman Jamaal Bowman, who was endorsed by DSA and represents Yonkers, parts of the Bronx, and southern Westchester County, introduced the legislation, which would invest $1.43 trillion over ten years in public schools, to upgrade them for energy efficiency and health, and to hire and train hundreds of thousands of new staff (education jobs are green jobs; they don’t require fossil fuels or emit greenhouse gases). (Bowman, a former middle school principal, was well-known as an education justice activist long before he ran for office and was interviewed by Jacobin during his campaign.)

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Dress Codes Are Racist and Sexist and Harm Our Children

By Lakshmi Gandhi, Prism

After a group of middle schoolers in suburban Atlanta made national headlines for protesting their school’s dress code, renewed attention is being paid to how school dress codes and grooming policies disproportionately affect girls and nonbinary students—especially those who are children of color.

The ongoing protests at Simpson Middle School in Cobb County, Georgia, began when eighth grader Sophia Trevino and 15 other female students at the school were written up on the first day of school after a teacher deemed their outfits too revealing. Trevino told The New York Times that because her distressed jeans featured a rip that was higher than the tips of her fingers when her hands were placed against her thighs, she was found in violation of the rules.

“I was angry and nervous, nervous because I’ve never really been sent to the office or anything, and a little angry because my jeans are perfectly fine,” Trevino told WJCL, adding that the dress code is “way more strict on women than it is on the boys.”

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The War Machine Has Embedded Itself In American Culture

By Chauncey Devega, Salon

[Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Let us pause to consider the true cost of America’s policies in the Middle East – and around the world. – Progressive Hub]

Who wants to be the last person to die in a war?

Last week, Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, commander of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, “became the last U.S. soldier to board the final C-17 transport plane flight out of Afghanistan a minute before midnight on Monday,” as a Reuters report described the moment:

Taken with a night vision device, the ghostly green and black image of the general striding toward the aircraft waiting on the tarmac at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai Airport was released by the Pentagon hours after the United States ended its 20-year military presence in Afghanistan. As a moment in history, the image of Donahue’s departure could be cast alongside that of a Soviet general, who led an armored column across the Friendship Bridge to Uzbekistan, when the Red Army made its final exit from Afghanistan in 1989.

America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan is now technically over.

There are still hundreds of American civilians in Afghanistan. Undoubtedly, there are still American covert operatives in Afghanistan from the CIA and other agencies. The thousands of Afghans who fought alongside American and allied forces or otherwise aided them are still trying to escape the Taliban, who now control the country and will likely pursue deadly reprisals.

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Vaccines Should Not Have Patents

By Julia Conley, Common Dreams

Vaccine equity advocates on Wednesday cheered as the Australian government bowed to a months-long pressure campaign demanding a suspension of intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, after the country’s top trade official said he officially supports the push for a “people’s vaccine.”

Trade Minister Dan Tehan told a group of advocates in a private meeting on Tuesday that the Australian government would support a trade-related aspects of intellectual property (TRIPS) waiver proposal, and later confirmed the news to the press. “The British and German governments have no allies or excuses left. They must stop obstructing efforts to waive patents so that we can finally vaccinate the world.” —Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now

“Well, we have always said we will support a TRIPS waiver when it came to Covid-19,” Tehan said, according to ABC News in Australia. “We continue to work constructively in Geneva to do everything we can to expand the production of vaccines globally because we need everyone across the globe to get access to a vaccine ultimately if we are to be safe.”

Officials in Australia have spent months avoiding expressing clear support for a TRIPS waiver, which would allow countries in the Global South to develop generic versions of the vaccines produced by companies including Pfizer and Moderna. In June, Tehan told reporters that Australia was “not opposed” to a waiver and was “prepared to look at a vaccine waiver,” which was first proposed in October 2020 by officials in South Africa and India.

The clear support expressed this week, days before a meeting of the World Trade Organization’s TRIPS Council, is evidence that “the tide is turning in the battle against global vaccine inequality,” said British advocacy group Global Justice Now.

“Australia’s support for a waiver puts the WTO in a strong position to make progress at next week’s TRIPS council meeting,” said Nick Dearden, director of the organization. Advocates in Australia urged Tehan to follow his remarks with decisive action at next week’s meeting.

“We urge the government to act by expressing unequivocal public support in meeting with the Indian government and at the WTO TRIPS council meeting on September 14,” Patricia Ranald, convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, told ABC News.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced in May that he would support waiving intellectual property rights for the vaccines to ensure people in developing countries can be inoculated—protecting those populations and the entire world, as low levels of vaccination in the Global South have allowed numerous variants of Covid-19 to spread.

More than 100 other nations including France have also backed a TRIPS waiver, leaving Germany and the United Kingdom as the most powerful nations standing in the way of global vaccine equity and a speedier end to the pandemic.

“The British and German governments have no allies or excuses left,” said Dearden. “They must stop obstructing efforts to waive patents so that we can finally vaccinate the world.” Australia has fully vaccinated over 40% of its population, according to an analysis by Reuters. More than 80% of vaccine doses have been administered in wealthy countries, while 0.4% have been given in low-income countries.

Sophie McNeill, Australia researcher for Human Rights Watch, credited advocates with pressuring the country into supporting the TRIPS waiver.