Continuing his cozy relationship with powerful Democrats, George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday interviewed his good friend, and newly elected mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel. The Good Morning America host hyped Emanuel, going so far as to seriously tout him as a successor to President Obama.
[See video below. MP 3 audio here.]
Stephanopoulos enthused, "But, you know, if you do a good job here, a lot of Democrats are going to be talking about you to run for President in 2016." At no time in the interview did the GMA host mention what Politico revealed in February of 2009: While serving as Barack Obama's chief of staff, Emanuel and Stephanopoulos engaged in daily phone conversations with two other Democratic operatives, Paul Begala and James Carville.
As Politico's John Harris reported on January 27, 2009, "In any given news cycle, it is quite likely that Washington’s prevailing political and media interpretation — at least on the Democratic side — is being hatched on these calls."
Perhaps that's why Emanuel's interview with Stephanopoulos on Wednesday was mostly friendly. During a walk on the streets of Chicago, ABC's cameras just happened to find a woman who rhapsodized, "I came all the way back from Mississippi to vote for you, sir!"
Stephanopoulos, a former Democratic operative for Bill Clinton, explained, "Walk with Rahm down any street here and you can see that he begins with good will."
At times, the ABC anchor couldn't help but let enthusiasm for his friend show through. Stephanopoulos spun that the new Mayor "is off to a fast start, already working his Rolodex to bring new jobs to the windy city."
He closed the segment by lauding, "And, you know, this is the job of his lifetime. He's been pulling for it for a long time and he got it."
Stephanopoulos did offer a few tough question. On the issue of corruption, he pressed, "We asked our viewers for questions for you. And one came in from Tom Nealon of Midlothian, Illinois. He says, 'Chicago has a pretty poor reputation for crooked politics. How do you plan on changing that image?'"
But, overall, the segment was what one would expect from a Democratic operative turned journalist interviewing a Democratic operative turned Mayor.
A transcript of the June 1 segment can be found below:
STEPHANOPOULOS: And I had a great trip yesterday. I went to Chicago, talked to new mayor, Rahm Emanuel, former White House chief of staff. It was his first time he's speaking out on a national stage. He was just elected a couple weeks ago. Just starting and he's going to tell us what gives him all that gray hair now as head of the third largest city in America.
ROBERTS: But, he looks very happy!
STEPHANOPOULOS: He is very happy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm just back from Chicago, where I sat down with the new mayor, Rahm Emanuel for his first national interview. The former congressman and White House chief of staff to President Obama, is off to a fast start, already working his rolodex to bring new jobs to the windy city. And he says that his old boss will win re-election in 2012, by sticking to the basics.
RAHM EMANUEL: He is doing what I'm doing, focusing on the basic concerns that people talk about at the kitchen table. I'm doing it on a very, very, very small scale. He is focused on that since day one.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You helped make Jon Huntsman Ambassador to China. Did you expect him to run for President?
RAHM EMANUEL: No.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of Democrats think he’d be the strongest Republican candidate. Are you one of them?
EMANUEL: There will be an assessment of the President versus whoever. And I think if they’ll look at the country he inherited, worst economic conditions since the Depression, an auto industry that was on its back, and actually, a lot of people- even some of the national leaders of the Republican Party were advocating of let it go. He made the tough decisions where a lot of people were second guessers and it saved 1.2 million jobs in this country. And we are stronger for it because he was ready to sail against the winds. Just taking one industry, not counting the financial, not counting the recession, and not counting the war in Iraq. Which are all decisions he made in the first five months.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And now a more recent decision is sparking controversy, the President's pressure on Israel to jump start Middle East peace talks. In a speech to the pro-Israel group AIPAC, Obama called out Emanuel.
BARACK OBAMA: The easy thing to do, particularly for a president preparing for reelection, is to avoid any controversy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did the President go too far? How much trouble did he cause for himself?
EMANUEL: I looked at the whole speech. I looked at everything he said in support of Israel, with its security and safety. And I saw the president that I worked for and who's been consistent about Israel security and safety, as his number one concern-
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So, for any-
RAHM EMANUEL: -as it relates to dealing with the peace process.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So, for any pro-Israel Democrats who were bothered by this you don't think they should be?
EMANUEL: They can look at the speech they may see a different speech. I read-- I read the speech, and I saw the same president who pulled out of the Durban Conference. The President’s been clear about not using the United Nations for independent action. It has to be done in negotiations. And I've seen the President, as I worked with, is consistent about Israeli’s military strategic edge.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But for the Mayor, now, all politics is local. You’ve worked at every level of politics. You’ve worked in Congress. You were a congressman. You worked in presidential campaigns. You’ve worked in the White House. What’s different about this job?
EMANUEL: That's how I got this gray hair. [Laughs]
STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand that. What's different?
EMANUEL: You get to talk to people. And you get to not talk about crime, you get to actually check in on a commander. You check in on a school.
STEPHANOPOULOS: His election has been a jolt to a city run by the Daleys, father and son, for decades. Walk with Rahm down any street here and you can see that he begins with good will.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I came all the way back from Mississippi to vote for you, sir!
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, he will be tested as he takes on high crime, under preforming schools and a budget crunch led by his predecessors. For most of the last six decades, a Daley sat in this office, is it going to be hard to escape that shadow?
EMANUEL: I do think this. One, the public is ready for a change. And to Mayor Daley’s credit, he knew they were ready for a change. He left a great city, a lot of great work, he has done. I just announced 500 new police officers from clerical positions to the streets. Day one, I wasn’t even in the office 24 hours, cut $75 million out of Mayor Daley’s budget.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You still have a $700 million shortfall. What-
EMANUEL: Of course. But that comes, George- So, on every aspect, ethics reform, put your fiscal house in order, changing the way we organize our schools, putting cops on the beat. On every aspect, the voters who wanted change were beginning to make the down payments to bring that change about.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We asked our viewers for questions for you. And one came in from Tom Nealon of Midlothian, Illinois. He says, 'Chicago has a pretty poor reputation for crooked politics. How do you plan on changing that image?'
EMANUEL: Well, the two things we did. I signed six executive orders. I shut the revolving door. You work for me, you cannot lobby for two years when you leave. That was Monday. On Wednesday, in addition to that, the City Council passed its own ethics ordinance, which I had asked them to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, you know, if you do a good job here, a lot of Democrats are going to be talking about you to run for President in 2016.
EMANUEL: I got a job to do here and that’s all I’m focused on.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Never think about it?
RAHM EMANUEL: You know my wife. No. [Laughs]
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Mayor, thanks very much.
EMANUEL: Thanks, George.
ROBERTS: He gave it right back to you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That was the most candid answer he could possibly give. Two weeks in and he is just working up a storm.
ROBERTS: Looks so at home. Very comfortable in that role.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, you know, this is the job of his lifetime. He's been pulling for it for a long time and he got it.