Rahm Emanuel Aims to Keep Bush Era on the Ballot

BY Jason M. Breslow  July 8, 2010 at 7:53 PM EDT

Just as President Obama attempted to do on the campaign trail in Missouri on Thursday, his chief of staff appears intent upon making sure George W. Bush and his administration’s policies are on the ballot this November.

That will, of course, be no easy feat for the Democrats. George Bush may have proven to be a useful political foil for the Democratic Party in 2006 and 2008, but there is little historical midterm election evidence to suggest that voters will be treating the ballot this November as anything other than a referendum on the state of the economy and the president’s performance. It is, after all, President Obama’s first midterm exam.

That won’t stop the White House and Democratic Party leaders from hammering away at trying to make this a choice election every day from now to Nov. 2.

“It is absolutely his belief he’s accountable for helping turn this economy around. The ultimate place it is going to be turned around is in the private sector,” said Rahm Emanuel in an interview with Jim Lehrer on PBS NewsHour Thursday. “He has an accountability. But we should not forget, what was the condition of the country on day one? What were the set of policies that led to those conditions,” Emanuel made sure to add.

“There are choices here. There are clear choices. There are a set of policies that led to the recession. There are a set of policies and lack of enforcement that led to a financial crisis on Wall Street,” he said.

Mr. Emanuel also attempted to feel the pain of the American people in these economic times, but suggested that should not discredit what the Obama administration has done to turn the economy around.

“It is understandable for their frustration because of their own economic conditions. That doesn’t take away from where we’ve been, where we are today, and the road going forward,” he said.

When asked about Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele’s recent comments about Afghanistan having become “Obama’s war,” Emanuel rebuked Mr. Steele’s theory.

“When you send your troops over there, that’s America’s war,” said Emanuel. “And if you think that’s only one president’s war, than you don’t understand the obligation a country makes collectively.”

You can check out the entire interview (video and transcript), which included Emanuel’s comments on the spy swap and immigration reform, right here at the Online NewsHour.

David Chalian is the new political editor for the PBS NewsHour.