Transcript: Gibson Interviews Rahm Emanuel

W.H. chief of staff says President Obama "inherited these ... problems."

ByABC News
April 29, 2009, 10:05 AM

April 29, 2009— -- The following is an excerpted transcript of ABC News' Charles Gibson's interview with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on President Obama's first 100 days in office, for "World News With Charles Gibson," April 29, 2009.

CHARLES GIBSON: Rahm, what would you point to after 100 days that might give us the greatest indication of how this president will be judged after four years?

RAHM EMANUEL: Well, first of all, Charlie, that's a good question. I think something on substance and something on style, if I could.


EMANUEL: On substance, I think that people will see that he had -- you know, affected the economy in its kind of worst moment since the Great Depression and began to put the foundation down to altering it fundamentally in the sense of a way in which we finally started facing -- go face off with the challenges that have basically hurt and hindered this economy. And what I mean by that is challenging the health care system and the costs. Everybody knows we cannot have a health care system that is running three to four times inflation on an annual basis, and it's going to consume more and more of our GDP.

And then on energy, you could not continue to export $700 billion of our wealth overseas and basically debilitate the economy's ability to create new jobs, new industries, and use that as a venue to finally do something different, that we could no longer realize an energy policy on cheap oil. And that the advantage America had after World War II on the most educated work force, it had lost that advantage, and we put the building blocks from K through 12 to college to once again put America on the lead on its education and its students who -- and workers, who are the best educated, best trained in the country. That foundation.

So I think you can see that in both the Recovery Act and the budget just literally got passed [in] the House today, just before we started this interview. And it will be taken up by the Senate. But that -- the fundamentals, the building blocks for an economy that was based on a philosophy of save and invest, versus one of borrow and spend, had been altered.

And then on -- if I could, let me say something about, I think, style. And two points.

If you looked at successful presidents and transformative presidents, two points. And I don't mean to go back on this, but if you look at Kennedy, you look at Roosevelt, you look at Reagan -- you can even go back if you wanted to on Jefferson -- they follow failed presidents who were not -- I mean, basically the philosophy is the presidency didn't succeed. They were good communicators, and they came at a point of crisis in the country.

And the test is still -- we won't know for a long time for the president. But that kind of chemistry of those three things exist here, and a philosophy that's based and de-legitimized by the predecessor. It's a moment of crisis and a successful communicator.

And I don't think anybody's had any trouble -- and if you look at other presidencies, kind of when there's a dissonance between the public's acceptance of them as president, they see him -- the public sees President Obama immediately in the role in a natural way as president. And his openness and his accessibility, that he is trying to basically hit these problems head on, be honest with the American people, talk to them in an honest way, and help them understand that the challenges we have, that we face as a country, and what the solutions are.

So, substantively, putting in place the foundation, to fundamentally take the economy in a direction that he meets his challenges so it can be a competitive economy in the future. And then stylistically, I would also say one in which the American people who see a president who is open, honest with them, and meeting the challenges that we have, and they have a stake in what we're doing. And that conversation with the American people is an ongoing conversation.

GIBSON: But Rahm, you make the point he ran to be a transitional president, a transformational president.

EMANUEL: No, I don't...

GIBSON: I take back the word transitional..

EMANUEL: He didn't run for that. The moment in time is here. He ran to change Washington because it has been postponing, Charlie, in viewing with the challenges. And that because of the culture here in Washington, the problems for America kept mounting without us seriously dealing with them.

GIBSON: Well, but I make the point, to be a transformational president, it has been obvious in these first 100 days, by the agenda you just laid out, he intends to be or wants to be transformational.

EMANUEL: Has to -- And somewhat also has to be because the scope and scale of the challenges require a set of solutions that meet the size and scope of the problem.

GIBSON: But fair to say, though, that he ran for one job and got another given the condition of the economy as he takes office?