At the 8:30 staff meeting in the Roosevelt Room this morning, departing chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was given a gift by Council of Economic Advisers chair Austan Goolsbee: a dead Asian carp.
This was an allusion to the Emanuel legend of his sending a dead fish to a pollster for whom he didn’t care, replicating the scene from The Godfather when the Corleones were alerted of Luca Brasi’s death with a dead fish wrapped in Brasi’s bullet-proof vest. The specific species was a reference to Emanuel’s focus as a member of Congress and White House chief of staff on the aggressive, invasive Asian carp, bane of the Great Lakes, a plankton-devouring creature heading towards Chicago.
Goolsbee said: “I talked to the policy team and we wanted to give you a going away present—something to show how we feel about you but also shows we understand your new possibilities. I was the natural go between—I voted for you all three times you ran for Congress and even in that first primary. So here is your present.”
Emanuel opened it.
“This is a dead fish!” he said.
Goolsbee: “To most people, it looks like a dead fish. But to a future mayor of Chicago, it looks like a dead Asian Carp. And you’ll be happy to know that it wasn’t easy to find one of these”
Said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs: “In Chicago, this is how friends say goodbye.”
Emanuel, who got teary during the staff meeting, told staffers that he knows that he pushed staffers “very hard. But I did it in service to the president. And I believe that our whole country is better off for it.”
Staffers gave him a standing ovation.