WASHINGTON — When Mayor Rahm Emanuel was White House chief of staff, President Barack Obama would resist his urging to do “the quick political thing,” Emanuel said in a Sunday interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The mayor also threw a punch at GOP White House hopeful Mitt Romney, the Republican the Obama re-election team sees as one of the toughest to beat if he became the nominee. The show was taped at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art to help kick off “Chicago Ideas Week.”
“I often advised the president about doing the quick political thing, and he looked at the long term,” Emanuel told host David Gregory.
Obama, said Emanuel, “rejected the quick and political because it was in America’s interest. That’s both true about financial reform, health care, the big decisions. And he’s never lost his fight for America.”
Emanuel said Obama wanted his opinion, and he got it, even if he did not agree with him.
“To his credit, he wanted advice, unfiltered, ‘Give it to me what you think’ assessment. I gave it to him, and he made the decision he thought was in [America’s] interest, and I think correctly,” Emanuel said.
Emanuel’s remarks come in his first months of his mayoral term, with multiple announcements daily to take credit for a quick turnaround from former Mayor Richard M. Daley regarding job creation in Chicago, streamlining city government and other matters of civic life.
Emanuel’s comment about the “quick and political” seem in line with a picture Chicago native Jonathan Alter painted of a very pragmatic Emanuel in his book, The Promise: President Obama, Year One .
“Because Rahm viewed ideas primarily as weapons, he was rarely wedded to them. To him, they were interchangeable instruments of political will. He despised purists who couldn’t see that something was always better than nothing,” Alter wrote.
The “Meet the Press” interview focused mainly on the national economy. A discussion about the bailout of the auto industry led Emanuel to jab at Romney.
“There would not be an auto industry if Mitt Romney was president. He would have said, ‘Let it go bankrupt,’ ” Emanuel said.
Chrysler and General Motors were propped up by former President George W. Bush and got an even bigger bailout under Obama.
Obama policies led to a revived U.S. auto industry and “we’re a stronger country” for it, Emanuel said.
Plugging Obama’s infrastructure spending in his jobs bill before Congress, which would likely pump millions of dollars to Chicago, Emanuel said, “I know, and I believe fundamentally, as a mayor or as a congressman or as chief of staff, that rebuilding America’s infrastructure is right today and it’s right for tomorrow.”
OTHER RAHM NEWS: Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-bak heads to Chicago on Friday, the day after he is honored at aWhite House State Dinner hosted by Obama and first lady Michelle. Emanuel will throw a dinner for the Korean president at the Chicago Cultural Center. Emanuel as of Sunday was not planning on attending the State Dinner.
Monday, Emanuel, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Gov. Pat Quinn, Sen. Dick Durbin, Reps. Bobby Rush and Dan Lipinski will announce federal funds for a South Side project.
At Chicago Ideas Week, Emanuel will discuss technology and city government on a panel that includes New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.