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Emanuel to new Democratic members of Congress: Avoid Colbert
Mike Sheehan
Published: Thursday March 15, 2007
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Among his guidelines to new Democratic members of Congress, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus is advising them to shun the host of the hit TV satire The Colbert Report, or at least his show, The Hill reports.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) said, "Don't do it... it's a risk and it's probably safer not to do it," according to Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), writes Jonathan E. Kaplan.

New Democratic House members "respect Emanuel, but they don't always follow his orders," Kaplan adds. "On the other hand, avoiding the kind of publicity that only 'The Colbert Report' can confer on a lawmaker may be the only advice from Emanuel that freshman Democrats are ignoring."

Emanuel played a part in the Democratic takeover of the House in last year's midterm election. "Now, as the House Democratic spokesman," says Kaplan, "Emanuel is working to keep freshman Democrats in office. His thoughts on how to manage casework, campaign for reelection, and win favorable press coverage" are based on the "all politics is local" philosophy of the late Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neill (D-MA).

One new Democratic member of Congress, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH), said of Emanuel, "He has been helpful and a pain-in-the-you-know-what, to my great benefit," Kaplan writes. "He's an advocate for making sure folks in the district know what you're doing ... Of course, he keeps a close watch on doing what we need to do to get reelected."

Excerpts from the Hill piece, available in full here, follow...


[Rep. Cohen] taped a segment that last week was featured in the 32nd installment of the "Better Know a District" series. Colbert asked Cohen whether he was a black woman. He isn't.

Eyes (but thankfully, not heads) roll in Emanuel’s office when other freshmen stumble, such as the time Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) got into a debate about the merits of throwing kittens into a wood-chipper, or when Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio) explained that he is not his predecessor, convicted felon Bob Ney (R).


"Pay attention to your district, don't go Washington, go home every weekend," is is a message Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said Emanuel has drilled in. "He's encouraging people to stay local and focus on change, change, change. He and [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi (D-Calif.) both say to renew your commitment to change every day ... be local, be practical and maintain that connection to the district."


One freshman who has been on the receiving end of Emanuel's "tough love" is Rep. Steve Kagen (Wis.), who boasted to a group of anti-war activists that he had dressed down President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, during a White House reception. The administration denied the story. But Emanuel threw a fit. Kagen's staff was hauled into the Democratic Caucus's office for lessons on how to handle the media, Democratic sources said.


Despite Emanuel's energetic style of browbeating and worrying, freshman lawmakers esteem him. "He's the Al Davis of Congress," said Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), referring to the legendary owner of the Oakland Raiders who coined the phrase, "Just win, baby."