With the threat of a teacher’s strike looming, the murder rate booming, Rahm Emanuel appeared yesterday as the “headliner” on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. (Click here for a full transcript of the Rahm segment and of the full show.)
The subject was Mitt Romney vs. Barack Obama. Rahm fired at Mitt with both barrels, intent on hitting his target, regardless of the question from a tame, seemingly cowed George Stephanopoulos. (It’s important to note that the Emanuel/Stephanopoulos exchange was one between peers—with the 51-year-old Stephanopoulos, a TV star and Bill Clinton’s former senior adviser and communications director, and the 52-year-old Emanuel, a political star and, until he became Chicago mayor, Barack Obama’s chief of staff.)
As is always the case on these Sunday morning shows, “headliner” Rahm was followed by a partisan from the other side—“headliner” Kelly Ayotte, a freshman senator from New Hampshire and Romney surrogate who is often mentioned as a possible pick for VP. If This Week was part of her audition, she won’t get the job. Then again, Rahm was an impossible act to follow.
Rahm exhibited colossal impatience, as if the future of the Republic depended on him making his points. He cut Stephanopoulos off mid-sentence in a question about Romney’s alleged outsourcing. It wasn’t exactly the question Rahm wanted at that particular point, so he answered with a tirade about Romney’s claim that he left Bain Capital in 1999 to run the Olympics (and thus he had nothing to do with post-’99 outsourcing). Rahm argued that Romney’s claim was not true because SEC documents show how Romney declared himself Bain’s “chairman, …CEO, sole shareholder, president” even after the ’99 outsourcing.
Stephanopoulos made two failed attempts to get a question in: “Do you really…” Rahm cut him off, said his anti-Romney piece, and then Stephanopoulos tried again: “But do you really believe…” and Rahm raised Romney’s assertion, in an op-ed published in November 2008, that it would be best to let General Motors and Chrysler go bankrupt.
Then it took Stephanopoulos three tries—interspersed by Rahm blasting Romney—to ask a question about Obama aide Stephanie Cutter suggesting that Romney’s actions surrounding the SEC documents might constitute a felony. “And the second thing is,” Rahm goes on, “Give it up about Stephanie. Don’t worry about that.” Four Rahm paragraphs followed, interrupted by Stephanopoulos again trying in vain to push out a question.
Stephanopoulos then moved to the question of Romney’s refusal to release more than two years’ worth of tax returns (one already released and one promised). Rahm responds with a barrage of words, including his best lines: claiming that when 2008 nominee John McCain was vetting running mates, Romney gave the McCain camp 23 years worth of returns: “….McCain’s people looked at it and said, `Let’s go with Sarah Palin.’”
As Rahm attacked Romney on the 14 percent tax rate the candidate paid (“about half of what a middle-class family pays”)—and Mitt’s investments in the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, Luxembourg—Stephanopoulos tried to break into the monologue: “So, OK, you’ve made…” and Rahm cut him off to continue his point about tax reform and a middle class family wanting “to save to send their kid to college” and Romney wanting to “protect…the loophole in the Cayman Islands.”
“I—I get that,” stammers Stephanopoulos. It went on for another 800 or so words before Stephanopoulos said, “Thanks very much, Mr. Mayor,” and moved on to Kelly Ayotte.
For the most part, Ayotte let Stephanopoulos ask his questions, many of them way longer and more involved than any he was able to ask Rahm, and some containing anti-Romney info—for example, Stephanopoulos asks Ayotte about the Romney-signed SEC forms and mentions that Romney “attended board meetings of at least one company funded by Bain in that 1999 to 2002 period, that he received at least $100,000 for two separate years as an executive of Bain.” A bit later, Ayotte again listened politely while Stephanopoulos asks a question that includes the news, “….our Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that … more than half of Americans are most concerned about the next four years, and among those Americans, President Obama leads by 23 percent.”
Yes, it’s Stephanopoulos’s show, but can anyone imagine Rahm sitting still for that? He would have seen those negative nuggets coming and stopped Stephanopoulos in mid-syllable.
One week ago, Emanuel appeared on CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley. Emanuel made his case for what he’s doing about Chicago’s skyrocketing murder rate, pushing toward 280 so far this year, up 39 percent. Don’t forget, Rahm repeated, that other crimes—“burglary, armed robbery, theft"—are down by 10 percent.
These national appearances, happening at a time when the city he leads is literally bleeding, feed my hunch that Emanuel is looking ahead to a national stage. Sunday’s alpha-male, attack-dog performance makes one wonder if Rahm isn’t auditioning to be Hillary’s vice president in 2016.
Joe Biden is showing during this campaign that he can be tough, but also comically inept and off-message. Rahm may be a lot of things, but off-message isn’t one of them.