What Is Rahm Emmanuel Talking About?

By David Swanson

Here’s a recent transcript

Congressman Rahm Emanuel is chairman of the Democratic Caucus. Congressman, people out there are wondering why did they elect the Democrats to end the war in if the war is still going?

REP. RAHM EMANUEL, (D) DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS CHAIR: First of all, they elected – first of all, let’s go to the presumption of the question, Chris. They elected the democrats for a host of reasons, including the war but also to change things that were happening in Washington as it related to their economics.

The exit polls overwhelmingly showed the primary issues to be the war and opposition to Bush and Cheney. This was the clearest single-issue national mandate an election and exit polls and pre-election polls have ever shown.

So there were a host of things that led into this election. And I’m more than willing, and I don’t think you want to spend the time going through that analysis. The war was a key piece of it. So was people’s economic frustration, so was their anger at the way that Washington had gotten corrupt. So there was a lot that fed into this election.

Second is, you know, the knowledge that you have today about what’s happening. Yes, the president asked for another $200 billion. The largest increase, the largest increase ever in his request is the largest request ever. And yet, we have always said, how can you say that children’s healthcare is excessive spending for 10 million children who don’t have healthcare, whose parents work full time, yet, you’ve asked for $200 billion of more debt for this war, bringing it right now to the total of $800 billion of requests and as you said, well on his way to a trillion dollars.

Exactly how many children have you obtained health care for? That was NEVER your intention. You told the Washington Post at the start of this year that you wanted to keep the occupation of Iraq going until November 2008. Do you have any idea how many times over we could provide every child with health care for the cost of what you’re spending on war? You have known since November that any decent bill would be vetoed. Yet you push them, get them vetoed, and then brag about it. This is insane.

And we have said just two weeks ago he has another six weeks and he has to produce a report on a plan for how America would leave Iraq.

No, wait. THIS is insane. You want ANOTHER report? From BUSH?? Cut off the fucking money, Rahm. It doesn’t take a bill to do so. You just announce that there will be no more bills to fund it. Got it? You act as if you’ve cut off a portion of your anatomy instead.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you this. Do you really believe that the number one issue in this country not the war in Iraq? To you really believe that?

EMANUEL: That’s not what I said. You said that was the reason we won the Congress. I said there were a lot of reasons we won Congress, but number one is Iraq, the number two is healthcare. Beyond that is also the energy independence. There are a lot of issues that relate to the challenges that aren’t being answered by this administration. I said that a lot of things got led into what happened in November because people were tired of what was happening in Washington and they wanted a new direction and a change. Iraq was prima fascia at number one, but it was not exclusive of other things.

MATTHEWS: How are changing the direction in Iraq?

EMANUEL: Well, I just told you, one of the things we did two weeks ago was pass a bill that said specifically if you’ve not going to set a date, you must produce a plan to present to Congress on the beginning of the reduction of the troops in Iraq that—it was a bipartisan, the first bipartisan vote to do that.

After 10 months, you address the number one demand of the electorate by asking the criminal for a report on how his crime is going? Sorry, Congress was doing THAT before the elections.

Second, all this waste and fraud had gone unreported, undocumented and unenforced. And as you know, Henry Waxman has done a miraculous job on that committee going through contract after contract on the embassy, you saw today what happened with Dyncorp and other things, basically bringing in and somehow controlling how they basically are spending money.

Are you out of your mind? Waxman has sent subpoenas and had them ignored, and refused to back them up with impeachment, meaning that he has not saved a single Iraqi life. In fact, they’re dying faster now than when Republicans ran the Congress.

And then third, the whole notion of having benchmarks. Of meeting some guideposts, of having some accountability is what Congress is doing. Now we have to get a policy where the president is absolutely—he does not want any date, any time for a date, to get out.

Democrats are clear that we want a date from the beginning for redeployment to deal with what’s happening in Afghanistan, deal with where al Qaeda is and stop having our policy held hostage in Iraq when the al Qaeda is formulated in Afghanistan and we have got to move resources to dealing with where al Qaeda is.

Horseshit. People outside the Beltway who are still willing to call themselves Democrats don’t give a rat’s ass for benchmarks, and those who did in March now understand that they wasted 8 months on that bullshit. Over 90% of Democrats want to bring the troops and the contractors and the mercenaries who are in Iraq HOME, not send them to Afghanistan.

MATTHEWS: You say your policy is being held hostage. It seems to me that was what I was suggesting. That the president merely has to blackmail you guys and say the minute you try to cut off any spending for this war, which would really be decisive, the minute you do that he’ll say you’re endangering our troops and you guys has to run them. Doesn’t he have control over the Congress that way?

EMANUEL: Listen, he does have an impact in trying to say you’re affecting the troops. We believe putting troops in harm’s way without a strategy for reconciliation, without a political strategy or the hard work on the political and diplomatic front is holding our troops hostage.

Everybody acknowledges including Secretary Gates, the defense secretary, that A, that you can’t solve this militarily alone and B, all we’re doing is military strategy. We’re putting more and more of the responsibility on our troops and less on the Iraqis to stand up.

What we did, in fact, when we started to talk about meeting benchmarks and started saying that we’re not having a policy that’s just an open wallet and open commitment, even Secretary Gates, the defense secretary, said that was helpful to try to move the Iraqis forward. What we have gone from, specifically we have said we want a date to start to have the troops home.

Move WHO forward? You are STILL, after 10 months of running the US Capitol into the ground, you are STILL blaming the Iraqis for how they’re handling our occupation of their country. Here’s what 80 percent of Iraqis would like to see you do, you pathetic warprofiteering little punk: GET THE HELL OUT OF THEIR COUNTRY.

They said they wouldn’t accept that. So we went back and said, OK, we want by X date a plan on how to get the troops home and what it will take to get the troops home. We have never deviated from the goal of getting our troops now back from Iraq, redeployed into fighting al Qaeda and fighting terrorism. The road we’ll take to it may be different from the first road we took, but getting to that goal line, we have never deviated from that.

Now, here would be the point where an interview NOT conducted by General Electric would ask: Why don’t you just cut off the money by blocking any more bills to provide more money? There’s plenty already appropriated to withdraw the troops and contractors and mercenaries. You can pass extra funding just for withdrawal if you really must. But why not block all bills to fund the extenstion of the occupation? Instead of telling Emmanuel what the Congressional leadership can do, Matthews ASKS him. Of course, that leads nowhere:

MATTHEWS: You saw “The Washington Post” today, congressman. You saw the pictures in color of the young guys and women who have been killed just in the last month.

Is there anything you’re able to do to stop the rain of death for our G.I.s? Look at the pictures. I don’t have to tell you about the emotions, you deal with constituents. I’m just asking you, is there anything you’re able to do in Congress to stop the killing?

EMANUEL: Well, a couple of things. First of all, before we get there, you know, outside of my office, and I invite you any time you want, Chris, I have the faces of everybody who’s fallen in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I put—it’s now close to taking the entire hallway.

So I walk by that on a regular basis. OK? I don’t just—it’s not just when “The Washington Post” decides to publish it. I put it outside my office personally as a testament to their sacrifice and on the floor I have repeatedly led bipartisan one-hours reading every name into the congressional record so their families know that those individuals who have given their life will never be forgotten. So I have done some personal things beyond just on legislation.

We can ALL do THAT, you moron. You are one of 435 people who can do much more than that, but you won’t.

Third, you know, everything that you’re talking about like on this recent request that the president has, on this humvee, the whole discussion of inadequate humvees, of Kevlar vests that were not provided to the guards and reserves that were being sent over there, were all brought up by Democrats. In fact, the type of stuff they’re talking about finally getting over are things that we brought up that you sent men and women into harm’s way without what they needed.

OK. So the fact is when it comes to saving lives and trying to make an impact, now, all of it can’t be just get the troops home, but make sure they have the equipment if you’re going to ask them to do that, that our guard and the reserves have the same thing that regular enlistees have.

That was something that Democrats brought and shamed this administration and the Defense Department was moving on and moving faster. Those have actually protected lives. Ultimate protection, get the kids out of there and get us redeployed as an—redeployed as an entire country and get us focused on squashing al Qaeda.

We want them brought HOME, Rahm, not properly armored and sent off to die for oil in a different country.

MATTHEWS: Congressman, during the Vietnam debate that went right through the ‘60’s and actually to the beginning of the ‘70’s, the Democratic Congress was very effective in educating the country to the cost of the war. The Fulbright hearings were very effective. Ironically, Robert McNamara, the secretary of defense in 1967 commissioned the Pentagon Papers and when they were published, they really did trace the causes of the war in a way that we can understand. It began the winding down of the war in terms of people’s commitment to that continued fighting.

Now, it seems to me the Democrats don’t do that. I don’t see a Pentagon Paper as being commissioned. I don’t see Fulbright hearing, I don’t see Newt Gingrich style special orders at night going against this war. What about the educational role?

EMANUEL: Well, first of all, just I think tomorrow is in fact—tomorrow is a hearing by John Spratt in the Budget Committee on an exhaustive take on the full cost of the war and the implications for America from here going forward. What the administration has set in play. That’s happening just tomorrow. OK? So I would recommend—I don’t know what you’re doing, HARDBALL is doing or what MSNBC is doing, but John Spratt and the Budget Committee is doing exactly that.

The full cost of the war cannot be laid out in dollars, you pin head.

Second is—I don’t want to go through all the names of everybody who has done special orders on the cost of war, that has done, and the entire point we have brought home, constantly, specifically on children’s healthcare, and the cost of the war is look at the priorities and choices that the administration has made, $200 billion more for Iraq, cutting $35 billion for kid’s healthcare, saying it’s excessive spending.

The last thing is one of the first bills I introduced, in this Congress when I got elected, six years ago, when I first got elected, called the American Parity Act. In fact, I have been on the show with you on it when I first introduced it and I introduced it again this Congress. Which is every dollar you invest in Iraq, reconstruction, hospitals, roads, schools, electricity, you have to do the same here at home so Americans do not feel like they were getting the back-end treatment and we were putting all our resources to Iraq.

Oh, great. So every dollar we give to Halliburton to not rebuild Iraq we have to give to Halliburton to not rebuild America? How the hell does this not encoruage a LONGER occupation?

And I thought that—not only did I think it was right, but it would show the choices that the administration was making to Americans to do. Which is part of the fight we’re having with the administration, which is why they want to veto veterans healthcare, they want to veto inspecting all the cargo, the hundred thousand community policing that the president is putting in a position where Americans are taking the back end of the short stick here as it relates to what he’s investing in Iraq.

MATTHEWS: I’ve been trying to defend the Congress, the Democrat-run Congress on air – no, I have—by trying to point out the fact that even though you have single or double-digit support right now is because Republicans don’t like Democrats and Democrats want this war over with. That’s why the combination of those negative votes hurt you in job approval.

Now, you’re saying that’s not the reason. You’re saying that the low number is because of something else? I think it’s because of the war. Why do we have the low job approval of Congress?

EMANUEL: Chris, you made a statement and I’m sorry if I corrected you on your own show, but you made a statement that’s why the people voted Democrats in. There were a lot of reasons. I would suggest to you come to the Midwest and you see economic hardship, that has as much to play—people sense a loss of health care, there’s a sense of retirement insecurity, there is job insecurity and income insecurity. If you’re saying that economic insecurity did not play a role in the election, I would recommend you .

MATTHEWS: Well, why are people mad at you, then? Why are the people mad at the Democratic Congress?

EMANUEL: Because they haven’t seen—Because they want—they want the type of change we’re bringing and they want it faster and more effective. And I’m as frustrated as them, but the fact is from minimal wage, to more assistance on veterans’ health care to college assistance, to what we’re doing on kid’s health care and the energy independence, they want to see it yesterday. And I don’t blame them for that sense of impatience.

As you know, I’m quite an impatient person so I can relate to that.

You’ve chosen to waste TWO YEARS. You’ve told the Washington Post as much. Any decent bill on any issue will be vetoed. You can end the occupation by cutting off the drain on the treasury. You can impeach, which cannot be vetoed. And, with a new administration, you could pass bills and have them signed into law. Instead you’ve chosen a morally and strategically misguided two-year-election campaign at taxpayers’ expense. Thanks for nothing.

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

EMANUEL: But the fact is, yes, they want a change in Iraq and they want that change. And they want a change in our economic policies in giving people healthcare security.

They want a change to make sure that we have education access for middle-class families. And I would suggest to you that if all you think is one thing, you’re missing the day to day lives of the American people. They want an end to the war, and they want a change in policies to make sure their middle class life is available to their children.

If you don’t think what’s possible, I would suggest, I will give you a tour through the industrial Midwest and you will see some pretty frustrated people on the economic side and that’s what they want as much, and on an equal level as a change in the war. It is change overall, not just on the war and continue the same economic policies.

MATTHEWS: I just don’t think we can defend the war policy by saying we have other concerns. It’s clearly the number one concern.

EMANUEL: Chris, that’s not what I said. This is the third time and that’s not what I said. Those are both motivating people to want something. That is not what I said. I’m being very clear. They want a change and an end to the war as being pursued and they want changes out of domestic concerns here at home.

Which is why the kids’ healthcare has resonated so well with the American people.

MATTHEWS: I must be hearing from different people than you are, but you have a lot of good polling information. All I ever hear from people is to say why don’t the Democrats end the war, they said they’d do it? That’s what I keep hearing, but you have a response.

Thank you very much.

EMANUEL: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS. U.S. Congressman Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Caucus. So, with President Bush asking for more war funding what are the Democrats going to do about it? Will they finally stand up to him or continue to be taken hostage by this administration?

And later, U.S. Congressman Pete Stark apologized on the floor for his comments that President Bush is amused when Americans are killed in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETE STARK, (D) CA: I want to apologize to my—first of all, my colleagues, many of whom I have offended, to the president, his family, to the troops that may have found in my remarks as were suggested in the motion that we just voted on, and I do apologize.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Stark’s apology and the Democrats’ failure to take on the president after Iraq. Both ahead on HARDBALL.

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On January 12, 2007, the Washington Post reported:

“For the rest of the year, Emanuel says, the leadership hopes to stress energy independence (with fuel-saving efficiency standards for appliances and cars) and a move toward better health care for children. And here’s what Emanuel doesn’t want to do: fall into the political trap of chasing overambitious or potentially unpopular measures. Ask about universal health care, and he shakes his head… Reform of Social Security and other entitlements? Too big, too woolly, too risky… The country is angry, and it will only get more so as the problems in Iraq deepen. Don’t look to Emanuel’s Democrats for solutions on Iraq. It’s Bush’s war, and as it splinters the structure of GOP power, the Democrats are waiting to pick up the pieces.”