Has the mayor of Chicago reinvented the city’s notorious political machine—and does he covet the White House?
When Rahm Emanuel became mayor of Chicago in 2011, he proclaimed: “I will not be a patient mayor.” It was an understatement. The former chief of staff to Barack Obama returned home with a near-legendary reputation for his take-no-prisoners style of operating. That is how he acquired the nickname “Rahmbo”. He once famously mailed a dead fish to a pollster with whom he had fallen out. There are few significant Washington figures who have not felt the lash of his tongue. In Emanuel’s lexicon, the word “f***” is almost an endearment. Emanuel, 54, lost half a middle finger in a kitchen accident when he was a teenager. It was an amputation that – in Obama’s unforgettable phrase – rendered him “practically mute”.
PUBLISHED: Feb. 14, 2014
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4200 words)
A profile of Dan Choi, a gay Iraq combat veteran who became a media star after his public push to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." Since the victory, Choi has found it difficult to figure out what to do next:
In late August, I was on my way to interview Dan at his apartment when he messaged me that a big protest was shaping up at the White House. President Barack Obama had just announced that he would ask Congress for authorization to use force in Syria. I raced to meet him at the north entrance, but all I found were tourists snapping photos and Dan circling around on his bike. He hung out for a while, texting a friend to ask for an update. She didn’t respond. After 20 minutes of scouring his contacts for people who might have more information, he looked up from his phone and gave me a sideways grin. He was being a good sport, but he looked crestfallen. I sensed—or maybe I just imagined it—he was asking himself the same question I had been: Who is Dan Choi without “don’t ask, don’t tell”?
PUBLISHED: Dec. 2, 2013
LENGTH: 28 minutes (7175 words)
Inside the lonely life of an Obama Cabinet member:
“We are completely marginalized … until the shit hits the fan,” says one former Cabinet deputy secretary, summing up the view of many officials I interviewed. “If your question is: Did the president rely a lot on his Cabinet as a group of advisers? No, he didn’t,” says former Obama Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Little wonder, then, that Obama has called the group together only rarely, for what by most accounts are not much more than ritualistic team-building exercises: According to CBS News White House reporter Mark Knoller, the Cabinet met 19 times in Obama’s first term and four times in the first 10 months of his second term. That’s once every three months or so—about as long as you can drive around before you’re supposed to change your oil.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 14, 2013
LENGTH: 29 minutes (7308 words)
Todd Purdum argues that President Obama’s isolation from the rest of Washington, D.C., has made him less effective as a politician over the last five years:
Obama is far from the first president—or the first suddenly world-famous figure—to keep his own counsel or to rely on the tightest possible circle of longtime advisers and old, close friends. More than 20 years ago, when Mario Cuomo was seen as the Democratic Party’s best hope for taking the White House, one knowledgeable New Yorker assured me that Cuomo would never run, because he could never bring himself to trust the number of people required to undertake an effective campaign. In February 2007, the week Obama declared his candidacy, his confidante Valerie Jarrett told me that she had warned him at a backyard barbecue in Chicago the previous fall, when his book tour for The Audacity of Hope was morphing into a presidential campaign, “You’ll never make any new friends.” Obama has since worked overtime to prove the prescience of Jarrett’s view.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 10, 2013
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3042 words)
Jim Gilliam was a precocious young conservative Christian who grew up in Silicon Valley and became a talented programmer. After fighting cancer, he lost his faith in God and found a passion for progressive causes. NationBuilder, a piece of software he built to—in his own words—help "democratize democracy," has had some of his progressive friends consider him a traitor:
"Before he’d written a single line of code, Gilliam had decided that NationBuilder would be nonpartisan. Aaron Straus Garcia, a field organizer on Obama’s 2008 campaign who briefly worked at NationBuilder, recalls a conversation he had with Gilliam early on. 'What happens when the Tea Party comes knocking on our door?' Garcia asked. Gilliam’s response was immediate: 'There’s no way we close doors, or we start picking or choosing. This is what will set us apart.'
"It was always going to be a controversial strategy. Gilliam’s activist friends saw him as both a leader and a product of the netroots; the liberal Campaign for America’s Future had even given him an award for being an unsung progressive hero. Now he was courting Republicans, trying to persuade them to use his product to defeat Democrats. In June 2012, NationBuilder announced that it had signed “probably the largest deal ever struck in political technology” with the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), whose primary mission is to elect GOP candidates at the state level. His competitors scoffed at the claim, but the agreement potentially put NationBuilder into the hands of several thousand Republican politicians."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 9, 2013
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6590 words)
The strange story behind the Mississippi man who sent ricin laced letters to a local judge, a senator, and President Obama:
"After a long and pointless back-and-forth, they put their cards on the table. A Homeland Security agent asks Curtis point-blank, '"Are you familiar with ricin?"
"'And I say, "I don’t like rice. I don’t really eat rice. If y’all look in my house, you won’t find any rice."
"'He’s like, "Ricin, Mr. Curtis, ricin. Like anthrax."
"'I say, "I’ve never heard of that in my life, sir."
"'He says, "You’re a liar."'
"At the end of a seven-hour grilling, the agents are beginning to suspect that they’ve picked up the wrong man. 'Finally, they know they aren’t getting anywhere, and they ask me, "Do you have any enemies? Do you know of anyone who wants to harm you?" I say, "Yeah, Everett Dutschke."'"
PUBLISHED: Sept. 30, 2013
LENGTH: 36 minutes (9024 words)
Why are Republicans still fighting it? A history of the conservative strategies to repeal or weaken the Affordable Care Act, and what's left in their playbook:
"The right’s actuarial guerrilla war begins with the underlying reality that hardly anybody knows about the exchanges. Polls show that fewer than six in ten Americans even know the law still exists, with the remainder believing it’s been repealed or struck down, or unsure. Of those aware that the law remains in effect, few understand how it works. Yet to succeed, Obamacare requires a critical mass of uninsured Americans not only to grasp what the law does but to act on it."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 15, 2013
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4700 words)
An in-depth look into the life of the Vice President—and the question of 2016:
"'He wants to be the best vice president ever,' staffers told me, months ago, when I first started spending time with Joe Biden. That was all the talk last winter. Hillary would almost certainly be the nominee, not Biden, they said, whenever the 2016 issue came up, which wasn't often. But then, abruptly, Biden's stock started steeply rising, at least in the eyes of the public. Washington had been hyperventilating about the fiscal cliff, and Obama sent Biden in to broker a deal. Then came the killings in Newtown, Connecticut, and Obama sent Biden out to rally the public, Biden in to reason with Congress, Biden over to talk to the NRA. In 2013, Biden has emerged increasingly more visibly potent than his boss. THE MOST INFLUENTIAL VICE PRESIDENT IN HISTORY? one headline proffered.
"'Well, he would be crazy not to keep his options open,' staffers started saying then, whenever the 2016 issue came up. Which still wasn't often. The parlor game was not my reason for being there. I wanted to get to know Biden. I wanted to understand why 'President Joe Biden' has such a preposterous ring to it, and I wanted to know if he knew it did."
PUBLISHED: July 20, 2013
LENGTH: 24 minutes (6089 words)
The Leader of the Free World has a half brother named Malik who would like to get out of his brother's shadow:
"On his way to a grandiose theory of what has happened to the Obamas, Malik simply refuses to be a bit player, and sometimes seems to circumvent his brother entirely. He earnestly claims that while Washington is the capital of America, Siaya is now 'the capital of the world,' the source of it all—of the family God chose to bring equality to the human race. Whatever comes next, Barack H. Obama II isn’t necessarily the center of that plan.
"'This is not even about him anymore,' Malik says, as usual avoiding his brother’s name. 'It’s an act of God! Each of us will make a difference in somebody’s life.'"
PUBLISHED: July 8, 2013
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4807 words)