DES MOINES – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, defending his former boss against a drumbeat of criticism from GOP rivals in Iowa, told fellow Democrats on Saturday that President Obama is guided by principles — not politics – that are designed to steer the nation through troubled economic times with an eye on assuring future prosperity for all Americans.
“To create true middle-class security, we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. We must out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the world,” Emanuel said during his keynote address to the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Day annual fundraiser. Iowa will open the 2012 presidential campaign season with its Jan. 3 precinct caucuses held by both political parties and is considered a key swing state in next year’s general election.
“President Obama believes in an America where hard work pays off, where responsibility is rewarded,” said Emanuel, 51, who stepped down as Obama’s White House chief of staff to become mayor of Chicago earlier this year. “He believes in an America where everyone, from Main Street to Wall Street, does their fair share. He believes in an America where we don’t have two rule books, one for those at the top, and another set for everyone else. President Obama believes in the idea that our country prospers when we’re all in it together.”
The former Illinois congressman who also served as an aide to former Democratic President Bill Clinton delivered the keynote pep talk to his party’s Iowa faithful hours after six Republican presidential candidates wooed the state’s evangelical and social conservatives at a capitol city forum and helped Iowa GOP Gov. Terry Branstad celebrate his 65th birthday at a party in Altoona.
Obama has been the target of relentless GOP attacks aimed at his economic recovery plan, job-creation efforts and foreign policy edicts that Republicans say are based on political considerations and timetables rather than sound policy decisions and well-calculated military strategies.
On Saturday, Emanuel fired back on Obama’s behalf, telling Iowa Democrats that “the president did not make choices based on politics. He made them because of his principles. He did not make choices for the next election; he made them for the next generation” since taking over the national helm in January 2009. “President Obama never tailored what he believed to the moment.”
The Chicago mayor said the nation’s future direction will be at stake again in November 2012 when Americans go to the polls to decide who will lead the nation for the next four years.
“In the next four years, there will be more challenges and more crises that will determine the economic vitality of the middle class and the economic future of this country. Whose character, whose judgment, do you want in that office?” he asked in his prepared remarks. “Over the next four years, there will be a series of choices. It won’t be clear what the outcome will be. We will need leadership; we will need values as guideposts.”
Emanuel couldn’t help using the event to take shots at the GOP presidential field, noting six Republicans were in town for a “Thanksgiving table” event and calling it appropriate because “I’ve never seen a greater collection of turkeys.”
“I never thought I’d say this: I’m beginning to miss the wisdom of Sarah Palin,” he said.
The Chicago mayor noted that Obama spoke at the same Jefferson-Jackson forum as a 2008 presidential candidate and pledged to bring health-care reform, to end military conflicts in Iran and Afghanistan, to put Osama bin Laden and “those who were responsible for 9/11” out of business, and to help make college more affordable.
“That is the change we believed in, that’s the change we worked for and that’s the change our president delivered,” Emanuel said, contrasting that record with GOP front-runner Mitt Romney’s shifts on a number of issues over his political career as governor of Massachusetts and as a presidential candidate.
In a taped an interview with NBC-TV’s “Rock Center” program slated to air Monday, Emanuel indicated he has ruled out any plans for higher office – a suspicion traditionally aroused when a politician makes an Iowa appearance given the state’s lead-off position in the presidential selection process every four years since the 1970s.
Rep. Bruce Braley, Iowa’s 1st District congressman from Waterloo who referred to Emanuel as “my former drill sergeant” for the mayor’s former House Democratic leadership days, urged his fellow Democrats to “recapture that hope and change feeling” heading into the 2012 campaign season.
“We’ve got a lot of hard work to do. Let’s get to work,” Braley said.
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