As Axe Slams Rahm from One Side, Greg Craig Slams from the Other

I trust it’s not a coincidence that at the same time David Axelrod is skewering Rahm from within the White House, Greg Craig is getting picked up on a live mike (oops!) skewering him from the outside.

“The great thing about it, if Rahm goes to run for mayor, is that Eric survived,” Craig said, according to an audio recording of the Sept. 21 event.

The National Law Journal requested a copy of the recording from the law school, and the school provided one. The recording includes Craig’s speech and a question-and-answer session, as well as two and a half minutes of pre-speech banter between Craig and Trevor Morrison, a Columbia law professor who introduced Craig to the audience. They touched on Holder’s relationship with Emanuel and on the case of accused terrorist Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani.

As Craig suggests, Emanuel’s departure would mean Holder will have outlasted an internal rival with whom, according to news reports, Holder has repeatedly clashed on subjects like the venue for trying terrorism suspects. And it would mean Emanuel wouldn’t be around to attempt to force Holder out if tensions flared again.


A questioner asked Craig why he left. Craig responded that he did so for “a number of different reasons,” and then he focused squarely on Emanuel.

“One of the reasons was that I did not get along with the chief of staff well,” Craig said, “and I think that the coordination between the White House counsel and the chief of staff is vital to the success of the working of the White House.”

Though, I’d challenge Craig: What good has Holder’s outlasting Rahm done after Friday’s audacious claim to unlimited power? There’s no indication at all that Rahm was pushing Holder to submit a motion basically saying, “the President can kill any American, and he doesn’t have to show the Courts any justification for why, which is good because we can’t even make a good argument to support it.” I mean, sure, Rahm had a big hand in pissing away Obama’s bid to moral standing. But Holder’s DOJ has simply embraced the disdain for law that Rahm handed them and run with it, all on their own now.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yes, it is. Particularly after DOJ rather predictably defeated Ghailani’s motion to dismiss, and no one outside of about 25 people I seem to know personally even know the trial is going on, meaning the GOP isn’t even TRYING to exact a political price in this case.

  1. BoxTurtle says:

    Rahm does what his Master tells him to do. Holder does what his Master tells him to do. Their replacements will do what their Master tells them to do.

    Boxturtle (Though I do enjoy the public backbiting)

  2. Mary says:

    I think the context of the comment about Holder surviving is that it was part of live mike pickup of conversation between Craig and Morrison and was more in the nature of two guys who had picked Holder’s side over Rahm shooting the breeze of Holder actually surviving against a shark like Rahm – not so much telling the audience that it would be good for anything much that Holder survived the cut.

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah, and they both have their dogs in the fight, but I found the way they described it pretty interesting on the “gee it just came out of DOJ main” part. Well it was clearly at lot more complicated than that, but it gives an insight as to where Craig and Morrison were/are. And it is a different place than the Administration that made the decision.

      • Mary says:

        Oh I agree with that on Ghailani’s case – although the excerpted remarks have a tenor that they are mostly in a bit of disbelief that the guy got moved and case got filed so quickly (out of the political Main Justice directions w/o consulting the USA who would have to prosecute) without anyone thinking through the overall consequences, that they didn’t see what kinds of issues it might bring into play – like the detention aspects that almost cratered the case already.

        At least, that’s how I took it. I think a lot of times the colleague to colleague talk is going to be about whose guy is winning the political battle, more so than whether the wins are worthwhile. They both were Holder supporters who got basically booted – but their guy is still there. They see that as a victory in a gamesmanship analysis, not so much a substantive or even procedural analysis.

    • Patri says:

      Looks like Rahm is going to be the fall guy for Obama in 2010 and 2012–and it is well deserved, he is a worm. However, as you say, there is a desk where the buck stops. Unfortunately, the person sitting behind that desk has no backbone and is proving he will do anything for big bucks and another go at that desk. We voted for a naif and we got naive activity. Obama, being wet behind the ears, surrounded himself with Bill Clinton’s team–the team that helped him survive after ’94 and through the impeachment in ’98. If they could do that for Clinton, they would surely help him through the difficulties of the presidency. And they surely helped him. They helped him lose his base, especially women (the same who were swooning over him in ’08), helped pass a bunch of watered-down legislation, helped strengthen the Blue Dogs, and helped him position the Democratic Congress at the very edge of a cliff for 2010. Instead of following the promises of his own campaign, he followed the Clinton triangulators, the strong supporters of NAFTA and deregulation. So, yeah, it ain’t just Rahm, it’s the man behind the desk with the fan blowing the bucks back.

  3. DWBartoo says:

    Craig on “live mike” episode.

    “I don’t remember that conversation, and even if it occurred, it was off the record.”

    Lot of that, these days.

    Memory “problems” and “off the … (whatever)”.


    • rosalind says:

      “I don’t remember that conversation, and even if it occurred, it was off the record a state secret.”

      Craig has evidently not yet received his post-al-Awlaki pleading style guide.

  4. scribe says:

    Nawww. The best part of Holder surviving and Rahm leaving is that, now, Rahm is going back to wheel ‘n’ deal in Chicago. You remember Chicago: the land of Fitz and his wiretapped pols. And Fitz works for the enemy – Holder – Rahm left behind.

    I give Rahm a year.

  5. Mary says:

    OT – but it’s interesting how, when “terrorists” were the #1 fear motivator, the argument for not purusing torturers was that they had to have their freedom to torture to save the world order. Now that the world economy is the #1 fear motivator, the Brits at least have shifted to an argument that it would cost lots of money to fight torture, so better to just go with the flow.

    But today the Government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Lord Carlile of Berriew, criticised the commission for squandering a potentially “vast amount” of public money on legal action.

    “What I’m concerned about is the use of taxpayers’ money by the EHRC to sue the Government,” said the peer. “We are talking here about precious resources, taxpayers’ money. ”

    • jdmckay0 says:

      “What I’m concerned about is the use of taxpayers’ money by the EHRC to sue the Government,” said the peer. “We are talking here about precious resources, taxpayers’ money. ”

      Pretty funny. We have 2 names for same thing:

      a) taxpayer’s money
      b) government money

      The “Good Lord” (no pun intended) uses term a) when (at least in word) honoring this money’s use, term b) when protecting gov. secrets… which BTW, cost both govs far far more then a piddly little investigation.

      I can think of 2 reasons for this:

      a) This guy’s a Lord, I’m a commoner. I just don’t understand, and god is not w/me.
      b) The old fart’s an idiot.

      Just curious, any of you language Nazis out there know how British came to call these guys “Lords”?

        • jdmckay0 says:

          I’ll go stand in the corner now……

          Lots of company in the corner these days dude. :)

          Completely OT: BMAZ, I’m preparing to do a lecture at local CC on Bucky Fuller. I recall you saying you had a conversation w/him regarding suspension design (or something similar). Any chance I could pick your brain as to what was said there… eg. any interesting little snippets I may want to take not of?

  6. Margaret says:

    It’s all just a petty game with these people. Who outlasted whom, which got one over on the other, how much political capitol the one gains vs everybody else. Lives mean nothing to them in their little world of intrigue and foolishness.

  7. MadDog says:

    Most of the Beltway MSM Conventional Wisdomers who devour their insider crumbs regurgitated from the lips of Rahm Emanuel fawningly portray him as a political strategy savant with the Midas touch.

    The truth however is far different, and far simpler.

    Rahm Emanuel’s underlying philosophy of life, politics, and governing in a nutshell is:

    Shorter Rahm Emanuel: “A bad deal is better than no deal.”

    Shorter Rahm Emanuel: “A bad bill is better than no bill.”

    Shorter Rahm Emanuel: “A bad policy is better than no policy.”

    Shorter Rahm Emanuel: “A bad Democrat is better than no Democrat.”

    Shorter Rahm Emanuel: “A bad Lieberman is better than no Lieberman.”

    Shorter Rahm Emanuel: “A bad lie is better than no lie.”

    See if you can’t think of some more (try bribe…hint, hint):

    Shorter Rahm Emanuel: “A bad [blank] is better than no [blank].”

    • Fractal says:

      Shorter Rahm Emanuel: “A bad [blank] is better than no [blank].”

      Good game.

      Shorter Rahm Emanuel: “A bad bank bailout is better than no bank bailout.”

      Shorter Rahm Emanuel: “A bad economy is better than no economy.”

      Shorter Rahm Emanuel: “A bad Middle East occupation is better than no Middle East occupation.”

  8. Fractal says:

    Marcy, I think you’re right that Craig is stretching it to blame Rahmbo for trying to infect DOJ with a sick, anti-constitutional, war-criminal ideology. I see no evidence that Holder has stood up to the White House on anything, or taken even a single tiny step to clean out the infestation of war crimes from the Bush/Cheney/Addington/Yoo/Bybee cabal. OLC vacancy & Dawn Johnsen just the first things that pop into my mind.

    Jane mocked the Rahmbo purge as making him the “sin eater.” But the WH only had the balls to scapegoat one co-conspirator, and he isn’t big enough to eat all their crimes. (Ousting Craig never bought them any absolution on GITMO, did it?)

  9. solerso says:

    Im an old crank who has been using the internet from the beggining, but i dont believe anyone from my generation or older should be making internet rules. The technology is too young.

  10. solerso says:

    This shows how desparate the WH is. They are making a show of “sacrificing” Rahm which in their estimation, must be a very heavy and grave thing to do. It shows they HAVE been listening to the left of the party just ignoring it till now. It also shows(i think) that every decision they make is merely political calculus, no bill or policy or appointment,as far as they are concerned has any meaning beyond its value or lack of worth as a partisan political ploy. If Rahm had any actual worth as an inner circle advisor they would be foolish to ditch him in these troubled times, if he dosnt, then why have they kept him on for two years antagonizing the base? because antagonizing the base to appear “centrist” has been the failed political posture and every policy they’ve pursued has been calculated to create a “moderate” appearance. MASSIVE CRITICAL FAIL

  11. picasso says:

    There was way to much clandestine activity and Palace intrigue when rahm was in the Clinton Whitehouse.

    I don`t trust him.

  12. b2020 says:


    “The great thing about it [..] is that Eric survived”

    The Be-Holder, servant to the Torture-Enabler In Chief, landlord of the roach motel, ruler of a most dysfunctional and corrupt DOJ, a creature of the same mold as AG Alberto A-GoGo Gonzalez – good to know he is still alive, and the DOJ isn’t entirely adrift, but as long as he keeps shopwing up in court, there hasn’t really been any doubt now, has there?

  13. b2020 says:

    ‘Craig responded that he did so for “a number of different reasons,” and then he focused squarely on Emanuel.’

    Yeah, it’s pretty sure that conscience didn’t figure into it.

    Why is Marty Lederman still part of the machine? Is there something in the water? Pod pols?