Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said in an interview today on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that he’d love to replace Rahm Emanuel as Barack Obama’s next chief of staff, while allowing that he may be the last person the president would pick for the job.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: And we start the program with the governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, who joins us from his home state. Governor, let me ask you this. The polls all show a big Republican tide. What are the odds as of today that the Republicans will win the House, maybe the Senate and most of the big governorships?
ED RENDELL: Well, I actually think that, Al, that the tide is starting to recede a little bit. I think Democrats are starting to wake up and decide that they had better get out and vote. I think some Democrats are coming home.
I think a number of factors are involved here. I think the president being more aggressive on the stump certainly helps. I think some Democrats are finally getting a little backbone and they are talking about the good things we have done and the difficulties ahead for the country if Republicans control either one of the chambers.
And I think the wackiness factor with not just Christine O’Donnell, but Sharron Angle, and the congressional candidate against Nita Lowey and all this stuff is starting to make a difference. It is starting to get Democrats alert and it is starting to get independents questioning where they were going.
HUNT: What are the two things you would like to see Democrats in your home state and elsewhere do over this last month?
RENDELL: Well, I would focus on job creation in the future. Look, you and I think, I am not going to speak for you, but I believe the stimulus has worked. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but I think it has created jobs and it has certainly helped retain jobs.
That is an argument we can’t win, but talk about plans for going forward. Talk about the things that we have done. The small business bill I think was a great triumph for the president, and thanks to Senator Voinovich we finally got it done. That is a great triumph.
It is important to do those things. I think we have the best plans to create jobs as we go ahead and I think our candidates should be talking about that. It should be jobs, jobs, jobs, focus on to some extent some of the good things that have been done, but also looking forward to the future.
Infrastructure, everybody understands that infrastructure creates jobs. They see men and women working on bridges and roads, and back in the steel plants, and asphalt and concrete plants. The president’s infrastructure plan is a good plan.
We are going to have to reauthorize ICE-TEA anyway, so why not frontload $50 billion, and get it into the mainstream and get that money started to be spent? I think people understand that, and although the deficit is an issue, when you look at the polls, job creation and the economy is at 70 percent, deficit is at 18, 19 percent in terms of how many people think it is the number one issue.
HUNT: Well, as you know, the Republicans this week issued their Pledge to America. And what they said is, hey, instead of tax increases we ought to cut spending. And they offered a -they said they would cut spending by $100 billion and that seems to resonate.
RENDELL: Well, I think Democrats are talking about cutting spending, too. Look, anyone with any sense knows the deficit is a huge problem. We have to absolutely cut spending in the short run and the long run.
We have got to do something about entitlement programs, but we have also to say to the American people, hey, if you are concerned about the deficit we have got to take, have a serious discussion about taxes because you can’t just cut spending.
There is not enough discretionary spending and you know this, Al. So I think we have got to widen and broaden the discussion, but we have got to stand up and say, look, President Obama’s budget, the budget he presented for this year, is a significant deficit-reduction budget. And we are for deficit reduction, but we also know that at the same time we are reducing the deficit we have to invest in some job creation programs.
HUNT: On extending the Bush tax cuts, did the congressional Democrats blow it by not bringing that issue up before the election?
RENDELL: Yes. I think we were too scared. And I think we also downgrade the public’s ability to make decisions based on somewhat intricate stuff.
I think Republican polls showed it. Absolutely, it was in favor of eliminating, letting the Bush tax cuts on people who earn more than $250,000 expire, and at the same time holding those tax cuts in place for the middle class, maybe not for the next 10 years, but for until the economy recovers.
I think people wanted that and I think our guys were too afraid of the rhetoric and they assume that people will say, oh, you raised taxes.
Well, sure we raised taxes, but we didn’t raise taxes on you, ma’am. In fact, the Obama stimulus plan cut your taxes. We raised taxes on people who can afford to pay taxes and, by the way, we raised taxes back to the level that seven and half years of the Ronald Reagan administration had.
HUNT: Well, it is interesting. You mentioned the stimulus and most economists, including the Congressional Budget Office, the - Mark Zandi from your home state of Pennsylvania, say it probably saved 2-to-3 million jobs, yet Republicans successfully are campaigning against it everywhere. Why is it so unpopular if it was so good?
RENDELL: Well, let me say economists believe and the CBO says it would have, the unemployment rate would have been a point -
RENDELL: - to maybe two points higher were it not for stimulus. The problem is, out of the box at the beginning we got out-spun, and out-spun with - it was almost like the death panel stuff. They took a few things that were in the stimulus that weren’t good and blew it up way out of proportion and we didn’t answer back. For example, they are for tax cuts, right? That is all you hear from the Republicans.
RENDELL: Well, how much of that $870 billion was tax cuts, Al? Do you remember? It was $375 billion worth of tax cuts, tax cuts to individuals, tax cuts to business, et cetera.
Well, how many Americans know that
HUNT: So why is this president who was such a great communicator during the campaign, why does he do such a lousy job of communicating now?
RENDELL: Al, I wish to heck I knew. I - it is the greatest quandary in my, in all of the 33 years that I have been in politics. It is the greatest question mark. I cannot, not for the life of me, figure it out.
We didn’t seize the initiative. We sat back. We let them sort of define the stimulus in the minds of American people. We let them define health care.
I have been going around the state as the health care bill has kicked in and a lot of people think it doesn’t kick in until 2014, but as you know there are six or seven very important things that are kicking in right now, including a 35 percent tax credit for small businesses who employ less than 25 people and are giving health care to their employees. We have been out-spun by a bunch of people who have no regard for the truth and we sat back and took it. I am mystified by it.
HUNT: Well, let me tell you, one solution that some people offer, which is - you are leaving office at the end of this year and you have talked about maybe going out and making some money for a change, but there are a number of people I know in Washington who say, you know, they ought to bring Ed Rendell into this administration, maybe even as chief of staff at the White House. If Obama offers you a top job would you take it?
RENDELL: Well, look, Al. The only job that I would be interested is chief of staff. And as I said, if I were president I am not sure that I would offer Ed Rendell the job of chief of staff.
Look, I have always been my own boss since I was 32 years of age and got elected district attorney. And you know me pretty well. I am a free spirit. I tell the truth and I like to mix it up. And that is not the Obama administration’s modus operandi, to say the least.
But I will tell you this, Al. Whatever the president needs me to do in a political sense, wherever I am, I will try to help because I think no one in my lifetime, no president has inherited tougher problems that weren’t of his own doing, and I think he has made substantial progress.
Has he been perfect? Absolutely not. I haven’t yet met the perfect politician, including when I look in the mirror, but he has done good things for this country and I think with time he will become an even better president.
HUNT: Well, Governor Ed Rendell, thank you for being with us. And I know you are not available until the after the World Series when your Philadelphia Phillies are crowned World Champions. Thank you very much.
RENDELL: We are going to crush the Yankees this year, crush those Yankees.
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