Both versions cannot be accurate. What is probably the dismal truth about his stewardship of the Obama vessel can be found toward the end of last August’s Times story, which showed the chief of staff steering without any rudder of principle, and playing captain in policy and political waters too deep for him. He is largely responsible for the fiasco of financial reform, the soured deal with the pharmaceutical and insurance interests on health reform, and the botched retreat from the president’s promise to close Gitmo.
Whether and how to change the White House staff is a problem that Obama will have to face eventually. Even sooner, however, the president must decide whether to accept Emanuel’s insistence that he had nothing to do with the Post articles, which have inflicted real damage by depicting Obama as a weak and hapless foil to his brilliant deputy. If he cannot disprove that portrait, his presidency will continue to drift.