CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, CNN’S “STATE OF THE UNION”: Joining me is Chicago Mayor and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
Mr. Emanuel, let me start out just by showing our audience a new Franklin & Marshall poll out of Pennsylvania which shows that, indeed, the president’s numbers have been slipping since September. It’s now looking like about a four-point race, which is inside the margin of error. You all a little worried about that?
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: No, I — look, I think the campaign is set. I think what people remember going into this election are jobs, and you just had a report Friday of 171,000 jobs were created. And, Candy, I think, when I saw that number, back to 2009 when the president first got elected, we got a report within 10 days of his election which was on the January numbers which showed 839,000, 840,000 job loss. Now we’re at 171,000 jobs gained. That’s a million jobs swing in the right direction.
And I think people know it’s no time to go backwards. It’s no time to go to policies that led us into a ditch. It has been a hard slog for four years to finally get to 171,000 jobs gained. You got retail sales are moving better than expected. Home prices and home construction are moving faster, are moving in the right direction. The engine for economic growth is happening and I think people in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Rust-Belt-middle-of-America know that the president’s policies are starting to pay off and this is not the stop on him —
CROWLEY: Did you say “bought into”?
EMANUEL: — press forward on the policies that — go ahead.
CROWLEY: If they have bought into that — If they’ve bought into that, then why have these polls slipped in Pennsylvania do you think?
EMANUEL: Well, I — look, from that poll, I don’t know what their other prior — I’ve seen other polls that have the president in a comfortable margin on particulars. But it comes down to a four-letter word, my favorite one, jobs. And the president’s policies are actually producing the types of jobs and economic growth — not at the pace he wants.
And the policies he has for going forward are about building on the middle class and not shortchanging them like Mitt Romney would do, but strengthening the middle class so they can own a home, have a good job, save for their kid’s college education, not be one illness away from bankruptcy, and make sure they have a secure retirement.
And if you do those four things and have strategies to invest in that, you’ll have a strong middle class. And if you have a strong middle class, you’ll have a vibrant and healthy economy.
And the president’s policies are just now beginning to pay off. And you can hear the economic engine revving, and this is no time to shut it off with the policies that Mitt Romney is advocating, which caused the ditch in the first place. We don’t want to go back to the 839,000 job loss.
CROWLEY: Let me —
EMANUEL: It’s at a 171,000 job gain.
CROWLEY: Let me try one more time.
CROWLEY: We know that the vice president’s wife, Jill Biden, has been sent up to Pennsylvania doing a couple of early weekend stops. We know that Bill Clinton, who is one of your biggest assets, as you know, is being used in Pennsylvania on Monday. It tells me that you all are a little worried about that or are worried about the race in general. Are you saying no?
EMANUEL: No, I think — look, I think — Candy, ready? It’s a close election. B, you nail everything down. And C, I think Pennsylvania is secure, but you don’t take anything for granted. And that means you — there are going to be a lot of people going back to Ohio in the 96 hours, multiple times. They’ll go to Pennsylvania.
But Pennsylvania is going to be on the both in Philadelphia, the surrounding counties around Philadelphia, and then in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, that’s where you have a Democratic vote and you do go to secure it. But that doesn’t mean that it’s slipping. It just means that the natural tiding of a race. But the president’s in a strong position because of the policies.
And you say, once again, but I would say this, the closing argument on this election is about jobs and we just got a report showing that we’re heading in the right direction and I don’t think the American people want to go backward, whether they’re in Pennsylvania or Ohio, to the policies that led us into the ditch in the first place. They want to keep pressing down on the policies that finally are producing job growth and a stronger middle class where home construction up, retail sales up.
And let me say one other thing —
EMANUEL: You would never get —
CROWLEY: Let me just ask you though —
EMANUEL: You would never get these job numbers if we followed the policies of throwing the towel in on the auto industry, which is what Mitt Romney had advocated four years ago.
CROWLEY: Can you foresee a scenario that some have kind of put out there that Mitt Romney, because this is such a close race, might win the popular vote and the president would win the electoral vote?
EMANUEL: You know, there is a lot of people with a lot of time on their hands, and they think these scenarios. I think the core thing if everybody has to think about is is what is basically the choice here? It’s between a president that has shown the leadership as recently shown on the storm that hit the East Coast versus — and also gained the support — and it’s not like Chris Christie isn’t for Mitt Romney, he is. But he known that when it comes to the people versus the politics, he’s seen the president marshal the federal government to stand by fellow Americans so they can get back on their feet and weather this storm.
I don’t really — you know, everybody else, oh, popular vote, electoral vote. He’s focused on making sure that people know about the leadership the president has shown in four years, the results that have started to come bear. We inherited a country four years ago that had — we had war two places around the world, we had an economy that was losing jobs, the middle class was seeing their economic standards of living decline, and that has all steadily changed in the right direction and they’re not going to go back to the policies that shortchanged the middle class.
CROWLEY: It seems really clear to you, but as you pointed out, it’s a really close election. And one of the things that has come up —
CROWLEY: — in addition to Sandy has been what went on in Benghazi. As you know, people have been hammering that pretty hard. I want to play you something that Rudy Giuliani said.
RUDY GIULIANI: You know that what happened in Libya is the result, at least, of incompetence. You think if we had elected John McCain president of the United States, those people wouldn’t have had the full resources of the United States of America there in Benghazi trying to save them?
CROWLEY: So this storyline here is that we still don’t know what went on in Benghazi. The president has said time and again, or said at least once, that this is under investigation.
But the president knows what he knew, he knows what he was first told about that. Is it a mistake for him not to say, look, here’s what I knew, here’s what went on in the White House, here’s when I found out about it? Why not put some information out there?
EMANUEL: Candy, first of all, on this pace and then on the larger foreign policy — let me just address what Rudy Giuliani just said. You know, when we got into the Oval Office we were at two wars, one of them the longest in American history. We have ended our presence in Iraq, brought Americans home to start investing here at home, not in Iraq.
CROWLEY: Sure, but basically on Benghazi.
EMANUEL: On Benghazi, also the president has done exactly what a president should do. I want a report on the investigation into what happened, I want to know whose responsible, and we’re going to bring them to justice just like he did with al-Awlaki and just like he did with Osama bin Laden.
And that is exactly also what he pledged to do in the campaign of 2008, and he did it. He’s a man of his word and he’s shown the leadership even when people said don’t go try to spend everything you can to get Osama bin Laden, the president said I will go and I’ll even go to Pakistan to do it. And he was right.
And in Benghazi, let’s not politicize this, get the investigation done, let the chips fall where they may, find whose accountable, bring them to justice. And a mistake, if it was made in any other agency, then you fix it. And that’s what leadership is.
CROWLEY: Sure —
EMANUEL: It’s not trying to point fingers, it’s trying to get to the bottom of something. And yes, does intelligence at one moment another —
CROWLEY: But given the questions out there —
EMANUEL: — the president’s addressed it.
CROWLEY: But given what’s out there and given the questions, the president could say what he knew. I understand an investigation is going in. He can’t know everything every CIA person was told or what went on at the State Department, but he does know what he can find out by picking up the phone and calling the secretary of state, calling the head of the CIA, and he knows what went on in his own White House. So you know that this looks, to critics of the administration, like a slow walk.
EMANUEL: Candy, wait a second — of all the — of all the people. You monitored a debate in which Mitt Romney sat there and said the president never called it terrorism. He said, yes, it was an act of terror, he did it within 24 hours and you yourself acknowledged that. There’s an attempt to politicize an event that’s unfortunately — it’s more than unfortunate — we lost four American lives.
And what the president does is get to the bottom of the information, find out if there were mistakes made or if there were any challenges and what corrections have to be made, hold the people accountable that committed this gross act of terrorism and then basically bring justice to them, which is what he has done through his record not only with Osama bin Laden and Awlaki, but also with the leadership of al Qaeda throughout Pakistan and the Afghan border and other parts of the world.
Thant is what leadership is, that’s what you expect for a president. And it was in your own debate that, in fact, we found out Mitt Romney was once again wasn’t on top of the facts of what the president exactly said. You were the monitor of that debate —
CROWLEY: Indeed, and I also mentioned —
EMANUEL: — and now Rudy Giuliani is out making a charge —
CROWLEY: Right. If I could — if I could also say that I mentioned in that debate that the administration took weeks to say, no, this wasn’t about a tape and this wasn’t about, you know, a crowd and someone took advantage of it, that was also pointed out.
But let me — we haven’t got much time and I want to ask —
EMANUEL: But, you know, Candy — OK.
CROWLEY: — you something about what’s going on with the House of Representatives. When you left there, it was a Democratic majority, you had a lot to with that yourself, recruiting candidates, et cetera, and then you lost the majority in the House. And it now looks as though the Democrats are not going to be able to reclaim that majority this year. What has happened to House Democrats?
EMANUEL: Well, first of all, I’m not ready to — I think all these elections are right on a bubble. I can see it right here in the greater Chicago area. You have four races that are about nip and — well, one of them is clear is for the Democrats — that are nip and tuck. I would not ready — and I don’t know all the races, I don’t study it like it used to — all the races, but I think if you look at the House and Senate, I think the Democrats are in strong position. A number of Senate races are in strong position, a number of House races.
I think elections– and let me forward to what I think that is significant. I worked, in 1995 when the Republicans shut down the government, I worked in the Clinton White House. We had a big debate in the ’96 election. President Clinton won. Nine months later you had a balanced budget agreement that created children’s health care, you created — doubled the size of the national park, and the Hope Scholarship to help middle class send their kids to college.
This election, the president wins, and elections have consequences, will determine in a great sense how we deal with strengthening Social Security and Medicare, how we deal with tax reform to strengthen the middle class. And I think that it’s better to also have a Congress and a Senate that wants to reach bipartisan compromise with a president who wants to strengthen the middle class.
And I do think the consequences of an election matter on the contours of how you’re going to deal with all these challenges that are known in Washington as the fiscal cliff, but to the rest of the country they’re known about fairness to middle class families who are trying to basically have a tax code that works for them rather against them, health care and retirement security. And there’ll be reforms and changes, but you also have to have a president and a Congress that has the right values of the middle class.
And I can go back to remembering what happened in ’96. We had a healthy debate, nine months later we had a balanced budget agreement, and it was different because the president of the United States was able to lead. And I think, what — House Democrats, there are races throughout the country, as there are in the Senate, and I think they’re right — they’re very, very close. And I think, in a close election, there may be a little push given where I think the president’s strength is.
But I don’t know all the races there are throughout the country and I don’t want to comment on them, but I think if they’re any indication here in Chicago, greater Chicago area, they are very close races that can go either way. That’s why getting out the vote in these key areas matters.
CROWLEY: Just two words, if I can, here. Compatriot-in-arms, at least in this election, David Axelrod has said he is utterly confident of victory. Are you?
EMANUEL: Well, David is close to it. Yes, I am, because I think people know a core basic point, and that is the president has shown the leadership over four years in tough times to move America through those difficult times to a different point than what the country was he inherited. We are stronger at home, as a recent jobs report, home construction report showed, home sales showed, and we’re stronger abroad. We’ve ended two wars, we’ve brought justice to Osama bin Laden, and we’ve brought respect back to American around the world. And we are a different country than the condition he inherited four years ago.
And I started this show and I’ll make it a simple point, when he walked into the office two weeks after he took the Oath of Office, there was a report of 840,000 job losses, hundreds of thousands in the manufacturing space alone. Friday, you had the report before the election — 171,000 jobs created, 50,000, I think, in the manufacturing space. That is a million jobs swing in the right direction.
And if we had followed the policies that Mitt Romney said, throwing in the towel on the auto industry, we’d be nowhere close to that. Because the president showed the leadership, America’s in a different place. We have walked — we have gone through a long four years to get to this point.
And I think that’s why I’m confident these American people know he has the leadership, the strength to move this — to continue to move this economy forward and it’s ready for takeoff and they don’t want to go back to the policies that dug is in a ditch.
CROWLEY: Chicago Mayor, former Chief of Staff for President Obama Rahm Emanuel, thanks for joining us today.
EMANUEL: Thanks, Candy.