Rahm Emanuel on the State of the Union

CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric interviewed White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel Wednesday ahead of President Obama's State of the Union address. An extended version of that interview is below:

Couric: What mistakes will the president acknowledge tonight?

Emanuel: He is not gonna sit there and kinda list a set of mistakes and then - in his view, what he will do is in a couple places in speech talk take responsibility where he coulda done things different or better.

Couric: Like what?

Emanuel: In a sense communicating and explaining the challenges we had in the - and what were the missions of what he was setting out for the country to do or tackle-- in the areas of healthcare.

Couric: Will you scale back and compromise some of your goals, or will you try to keep basically the same legislation in place?

Emanuel: I think the-- the objectives will never change. Okay? So the decision now is what do we gotta to do go forward, the notion of not doing something is off the table.

Couric: The president says he wants to work with the Republicans, but that really hasn't happened so far, so what makes you think it will now?

Emanuel: The president will continue to reach out to Republicans, offer them the chance to work together. I do think now that the Republicans clearly have 41 seats, with that ability comes accountability.

They too will have responsibility for the direction this country takes and the choices we make.

Couric: Do you think the White House took too much of a hands-off policy and let Congressional leaders duke it out in a pretty unappealing way? Because though officials say the president was deeply involved, that's not the overall impression out there.

Emanuel: Well, there's - I know you know this, in your industry sometimes impressions are not always reality.

For all the mistakes we made or things you coulda done different, you always evaluate it. The seven presidents that tried, you would acknowledge that not one of 'em got a bill passed off the House or Senate and was this close.

Couric: Close, but no cigar.

Emanuel: That's life. And we got that, doesn't mean you give up. You keep working at it.

Couric: As you know, people were pretty disgusted by deals that were made up on Capitol Hill like the one given to Ben Nelson to win his support. If the White House was so involved, was this done with your blessing? But -

Emanuel: Look, we were involved in the legislation all the way through.

Couric: Were you involved in that?

Emanuel: Yeah. I'm not gonna go through all of it -

Couric: But in the Ben Nelson deal?

Emanuel: We were helpful in getting the bill off the Senate floor. And in retrospect the things - as I said to you just earlier, things you woulda done different.

Couric: You are considered a master political operative, you were the guy four years ago, of course, who orchestrated the Democratic takeover of the house. Where were you when Massachusetts was going down in flames for the Democrats?

Emanuel: Well, I mean, as soon as it was brought to our - my attention, or the White House's attention, we immediately got involved in it

I suppose, Katie, you could say that I'm responsible-- for not having done more at the White House, but-- I think that-- in the period of time between her winning the primary and us getting a phone call to get involved, we were immediately up there with whatever resources they asked for and more.

Couric: Would you say you dropped the ball?

Emanuel: That I, Rahm Emmanuel, dropped the ball?

Couric: The White House. The Democrats.

Emanuel: Look I - you know, I don't wanna re-litigate this, but it is no doubt in my mind we coulda won that race.

Couric: And what about your future, Rahm? Are you secure in your job?

Emanuel: Look, I mean, I think so, but you know - I've worked in the White House before and I work here. Every day the president of the United States can make any decision. You work-- there basically at their pleasure. So any day you could basically be told, you know, "No more." That's you know, what comes from working at the White House. I suppose, I mean, that's the way I look at it. And as long as the president wants me, I'm here.
  • Katie Couric

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