Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel defended his former boss Sunday, sounding a refrain that voters may be hearing a lot from Democrats ahead of the 2012 election: Things would be a lot worse in the U.S. had President Barack Obama not been elected.
"There would not be an auto industry if Mitt Romney was president," Emanuel said on NBC's Meet the Press. "He would have said let it go bankrupt."
Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff, touted several of his own initiatives since becoming mayor that he said will attract businesses to Chicago, put more police on the street and reform schools. But host David Gregory focused most of the 15-minute interview on Obama, asking Emanuel about the challenges the president faces during his re-election campaign.
Emanuel portrayed Obama as a leader who had the courage to reject advice, including some of Emanuel's suggestions.
"I often advised the president about doing the quick political thing and he looked at the long term and he rejected the quick and political because it was in America's interest," Emanuel said. "To his credit he wanted advice, unfiltered 'give it to me what you think' assessment. I gave it to him and he made a decision."
The mayor cited the recent deal struck between the United Auto Workers union and Ford Motor Co. that should bring 1,100 jobs to Chicago, saying it shows Obama was right to ignore politicians and pundits calling for the government to allow American auto companies to go bankrupt.
He also praised Obama's leadership through the nation's financial crisis.
"You look at where the United States' financial industry is today versus what's going on in Europe, when they didn't deal with it. We're night and day," Emanel said.
But Emanuel acknowledged that government spending on the nation's financial industry is a factor in the frustration in communities nationwide that pose a problem for Obama's re-election bid.
"There's no doubt there's a challenge politically because the economy is not where the American middle class family needs it to be for their bottom line," he said. "They too need help, not a bail out, but a chance to get the economy moving for them. And that's an understandable sense of frustration on their part."