Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday offered a preview of the speech he will deliver to the Democratic National Convention in defense of his former boss, President Barack Obama.
Having served as Obama’s first White House chief-of-staff, Emanuel is in a unique position to testify about the formidable challenges Obama inherited and the decisions he made to try and resolve those crises.
“On Day One, the financial industry had froze up. The auto industry was on its back. And the economy was in free-fall,” Emanuel recalled.
“And I saw a man with no blue-print on how to handle this–I saw a many who remembered the middle-class values he leaned on and the middle-class voices he heard and needed to work for.”
The mayor has talked repeatedly about the courage it took for Obama to champion the auto industry bailout when others–including Republican Mitt Romney, whose father once ran American Motors–was saying, “Let it go bankrupt.”
On Tuesday, Emanuel made it clear he plans to hammer away at the same theme when he addresses the convention in Charlotte, N.C. now less than two weeks away.
“Today, the American auto industry is adding jobs. Why? Because the President of the United States took a different path–the path that put the middle-class first and fought hard for them when everybody said that’s good money after bad. When everybody said, `Let Chrysler go. It’s the only way to save GM,’ ” he said.
“And while he was doing that–which would have been worth a full-term on its own, stand-alone–he got America out of Iraq after one of the longest wars in American history in the same period of time. He also put in place the process of beginning to get the banks back to doing what banks should do: lending to homeowners, lending to small businesses, lending to students wanting to go to college.”
Emanuel noted that an economy once losing 800,000 jobs is now steadily adding jobs. The mayor also credited his former boss with implementing an education policy that “put our kids first and put accountability and standards back” in the nation’s public schools.
“So, I’m gonna testify to what I saw in that Oval Office–a man of courage, a man of conviction and a man of vision,” the mayor said.
Emanuel is scheduled to remain in Chicago through the morning of Sept. 4, when Chicago Public Schools are expected to open, and launch his signature plan for a longer school day and year. He is scheduled to fly to Charlotte in the afternoon, then deliver his convention speech that night.
But, if Chicago teachers go on strike, postponing the opening of school, Emanuel is likely to skip the convention altogether for fear of alienating angry parents who would have to scramble to make alternative plans for their children.
That’s why his handpicked school board is expected to get the ball rolling this week on a contingency plan to keep kids safe and occupied in the event of a strike.