Ex-chief Emanuel calls Obama 'once-in-a-generation' president
By Russell Berman - 09/04/12 09:48 PM ET
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered a personal testimony to President Obama’s leadership during times of crisis, telling the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday that the man he served as White House chief of staff is a “once-in-a-generation president.”
Emanuel, who left Obama’s side in 2010 to run for mayor, touted the president’s record in addressing what he characterized as an unprecedented combination of challenges during his first months in office — a collapsing economy, a failing auto industry and two wars.
“Each crisis was so deep and so dangerous; any one of them would have defined another presidency. We faced a once-in-a-generation moment in American history,” Emanuel said in an evening address at the Time Warner Cable Arena. “Fortunately for all of us, we have a once-in-a-generation president.”
Emanuel is cutting short his trip to Charlotte to return to Chicago to deal with the threat of a strike by teachers and a recent spike in murders. His 10-minute speech was subdued and did not generate the energetic applause given to other speakers on Tuesday, including Newark Mayor Cory Booker and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.
Emanuel described Obama as a president who stayed true to the promise of his historic campaign even while confronting an extraordinary set of circumstances. Describing the passage of the economic stimulus package, the 2010 healthcare law and the ending of the war in Iraq, Emanuel repeated the refrain: “That was the change we believed in. That was the change we fought for. That was the change President Obama delivered.”
In exalting Obama’s decision to bail out the auto industry in 2009, Emanuel said the president was alone in suggesting that the government go “all-in to save the industry.”
“The American auto industry is not just surviving. It is thriving,” Emanuel said. “Where Mitt Romney was willing to turn his back on Akron, Dayton and Toledo, Ohio, the president said, ‘I've got your back.’ ”
Citing his experience serving Obama and former President Clinton before him, Emanuel said that he could say “with absolute certainty” an unforeseen crisis would arise during the next four years.
“Whose leadership, whose judgment, whose values do you want in the White House when that crisis lands like a thud on the Oval Office desk?” he said as he turned to a comparison between Obama and Romney, the Republican nominee. “A person who said in four words, 'Let Detroit go bankrupt,' or a president who had another four words, 'Not on my watch?' A person who believes in giving tax cuts to the most fortunate, or a president who believes in making college affordable for all Americans? A person who wanted to keep 'Don't ask, don't tell,' or a president who believes that who you love should not keep you from serving the country you love?”
The crowd of delegates, who responded tepidly to most of Emanuel’s address, woke up to its conclusion. “The person who takes the oath of office in the next four months will shape not just the next four years, but the next forty years of our nation,” he said. “In these next four years, we need proven leadership, proven judgment and proven values. America needs four more years of President Barack Obama.”