Politics

09.05.12

Rahm Emanuel Rips Republicans

Emanuel tells Howard Kurtz a shaken GOP will cooperate with Obama if he wins a second term.
Video screenshot

Rahm Emanuel has a simple explanation for why President Obama hasn’t accomplished more in office.

It’s “the radicalization of the Republican Party,” the Chicago mayor says in a video interview here in Charlotte.

“They have become more ideological and more rigid. There is not the Bob Doles and Bob Packwoods any more in their party.”

That approach, by Obama’s former chief of staff, seems to lay all the blame on the opposition, so I pressed the point with the famously combative former congressman. “I will take responsibility, but I’m not going to take it equal[ly],” Emanuel said.

“Newt Gingrich said let Medicare wither on the vine. Medicare is coming back” as an issue with the Romney-Ryan ticket, he said.

As a House leader in late 2008, he added, he tried to work with George W. Bush after the financial collapse. “I didn’t say, ‘You know what, it’s before an election, Mr. President, this is your economy, why don’t you handle it?’” These days, “any time a Republican reaches out, they have the Tea Party, the Super PACs, that come and beat you in a primary.”

It was fitting that we spoke on the day that Bill Clinton was to address the Democratic convention, for Rahm kept invoking his former boss.

“In 1995 the Republicans shut down the government,” he said, recalling the budget standoff that helped ensure Clinton’s reelection. “Newt Gingrich said let Medicare wither on the vine. Medicare is coming back” as an issue with the Romney-Ryan ticket, he said.

The year after Clinton won a second term, Emanuel boasted, he and the GOP balanced the budget, reached agreement on health care coverage for children, and cut other deals.

So what’s that got to do with what Obama might do in a second term, given the prevailing gridlock in Washington.

“Elections…have consequences,” the mayor said. “If the president wins reelection, I think the Republicans will finally, after four years of trying to beat him, will try to work with him. The American people will have delivered their verdict.”