The Vindication of Rahm Emanuel?

Critics applaud Emanuel as progressives fall in line. But so what?

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    WASHINGTON - JANUARY 6: (AFP OUT) Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff-designate attends a meeting with President-elect Barack Obama and his economic team, Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff-designate (R), Peter Orszag, Director-designate, Office of Management and Budget (L), Rob Nabors, Deputy Director-designate, Office of Management and Budget (3rd L), Christina Romer, Director-designate, Council of Economic Advisors (2nd R) and Lawrence Summers, Director-designate, National Economic Council (3rd R) January 6, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama announced he would ban earmark legislation from the stimulus pacjkage his adminstration will propose. (Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)

    If the House votes to pass the health care bill on Sunday, Rahm Emanuel will be vindicated.

    So sayeth the bloggy pulpits. Reason: Rahm's always argued Dems should ignore the mewling of progressives -- e.g., the stentorian Paul Krugman, the fast-fingered Markos Moultias, that legislative leprechaun Kuchinich -- because their caterwauling about the public option was nothing more than a noisome bluff.

    They'll fall in line, he said, because where else can they go?

    That's quite a change in perception from last week, when speculation about Rahm's failures as chief of staff climaxed with a New York Times Magazine cover story entitled The Limits of Rahmism -- so defined as, basically, pragmatic deal-making.

    Of course, that reading of Rahm begs the question: how can Rahm be vindicated if the president eschewed that pragmatic strategy for an all-or-nothing agenda?

    The answer is who cares.

    The pillorying of Rahm Emanuel is an entertaining side story, pregnant with personality -- jokes about cuss words and stubby middle fingers never get old! -- but fallow in substance.

    The real question is whether health care passes on Sunday. If it does, then the entire administration shares the win -- and then, joy, shares the mid-term election gauntlet.

    Meanwhile, we can distract ourselves with the more entertaining local question: whether Rahm's angling for five.