Just days before the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel — usually an advocate of uncompromising Democratic principles — appeared on "Meet the Press" and spoke of bipartisanship and respect for the outgoing Republican administration.
When moderator David Gregory pressed Emanuel on the war on terror, the combative lawmaker refused to critique the sitting president, saying, "I have my views. I'm here to reflect the views of the president-elect."
Instead, Emanuel stressed respect for the Bush years. "I thanked everybody from the outgoing administration for their patriotism, their sense of public service and what they did for the country."
Emphasizing a simultaneous spend-and-save ideology, Emmanuel called on Congress to match credit stabilization in the consumer sector so that the average American could borrow from institutions again.
Emanuel highlighted the opportunity, via the stimulus plan, to create millions of new jobs through infrastructure development, education and technology innovation. "Obama's been very clear, you cannot have a strong economy that does not have a strong middle class. The approach has been to provide the middle class with a tax cut, and also to start getting the economy moving again by making critical investments. That's why we want to create three and a half million jobs."
Gregory pushed Emanuel on a number of high-profile issues, including the appointment of Roland Burris to Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.
As one of the people who spoke directly to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on the subject of filling the seat, Emanuel said that neither the governor nor his former chief of staff asked explicitly, or implicitly, for political favors.
"As described in the document we made public, we talked in general about the right type of person that could serve as U.S. senator. Those are the conversations you would have with the chief of staff, and they're all the appropriate conversations."
Asked by Gregory if he thought Blagojevich was a corrupt individual, Emanuel said, "The state Senate in Illinois is now in the middle of their impeachment hearings. You have an ongoing investigation. That's what the grand jury and the jury is going to decide, if it goes to trial."
When asked by Gregory about his reputation as a bare-knuckle political fighter, the incoming chief of staff offered his own version of Barack Obama's popular campaign message. "Hopefully ... I can help change the tone in which we have policy debates," he said. "You'll be the judge if I continue to be a better person than I was 20 years ago.”