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Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON

Do you see the election results as a repudiation of your politics?
Our new president-elect won one and a half points more than George W. Bush won in 2004, and he did so, in great respect, by adopting the methods of the Bush campaign and conducting a vast army of persuasion to identify and get out the vote.

Karl Rove

Karl Rove

But what about your great dream of creating a permanent Republican governing majority in Washington?
I never said permanent. Durable.

Do you think John McCain attacked too much or not enough?
Dissecting the campaign that way is not helpful.

Have you met Barack Obama?
Yes, I know him. He was a member of the Senate while I was at the White House and we shared a mutual friend, Ken Mehlman, his law-school classmate. When Obama came to the White House, we would talk about our mutual friend.

Did you have lunch together? Talk in the hall?
We sat in the meeting room and chatted before the meeting. He had a habit of showing up early, which is a good courtesy.

Are you going to send him a little note congratulating him?
I already have. I sent it to his office. I sent him a handwritten note with funny stamps on the outside.

What kind of funny stamps?
Stamps.

Do you have any advice for him? You already criticized Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s new chief of staff, as a sharply partisan choice.
I raised a question as to whether this would be the best use of Rahm Emanuel’s talents. If you’re trying to work through a big legislative priority, it is sort of hard if you have a guy who has a reputation as a tough, hard, take-no-prisoners, head-in-your-face, scream-and-shout, send-them-a-dead-fish partisan.

What about you? You were always seen as very partisan.
I wasn’t the chief of staff. And you’d be surprised by the Democrats I actually met, got to know and worked with.

Do you like Joe Biden?
I think he has an odd combination of longevity and long-windedness that passes for wisdom in Washington.

Do you regret anything that happened in the White House during your tenure?
Sure.

You’ve been booed off stages recently.
No, I haven’t. I’ve been booed on stages. I’m a little bit tougher than to walk off a stage because someone says something ugly.

Do you think the era of negative politics is over?
No.

Do you see yourself as being associated with it in any way?
Look, in 1800 the sainted Thomas Jefferson arranged to hire a notorious slanderer named James Callender, who worked as a writer at a Republican newspaper in Richmond, Va. Read some of what he wrote about John Adams. This was a personal slander.

What did he say?
He said he lacked the spine of a man and the character of a woman. Negative politics have always been around.

Do you think you’re negative?
No.

You’ve never repudiated President Bush.
No. And I never will. He did the right things.

What about Iraq and the economy?
The world is a better place with Saddam Hussein gone.

Do you have any advice for him at this point?
With all due respect, I don’t need you to transmit what I want to say to my friend of 35 years.

Remember, attack politics are out. It’s a new age of civilized discourse.
You’re the one who hurt my feelings by saying you didn’t trust me.

Did I say that?
Yes, you did. I’ve got it on tape. I’m going to transcribe this and send it to you.

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Two former White House chiefs of staff praised President-elect Barack Obama’s choice of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) to assume that job during a Brookings Institution panel on Friday.

Ken Duberstein, the former chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan, and Leon Panetta, the former California congressman who held the post in the Clinton White House, said Emanuel’s appointment suggested that Obama was serious about getting results from his administration.

“Rahm is exceptionally well-qualified for that job,” Duberstein said, lauding Obama for choosing a chief of staff so early in the transition process. “It sends a message here and abroad that this president-elect is all about governing and not campaigning.”

Panetta, who worked closely with Emanuel in the Clinton administration, shared that assessment, saying Emanuel “knows the White House inside out, and obviously now knows Capitol Hill.”

Panetta recognized Emanuel’s reputation for abrasiveness, but presented it as a potential asset to the nascent Obama administration.

“As I told the president-elect — and have told others — part of the job description is that you have to be an SOB as chief of staff. You’ve got to have somebody who makes the tough decisions,” Panetta said. “He’s the guy to do that in the administration.”

Emanuel’s appointment drew fire from Republicans Thursday, with some of the Chicago congressman’s GOP colleagues painting him as a partisan gunslinger.

“This is an ironic choice for a president-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil and govern from the center,” House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement.

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Panetta dismissed the suggestion that Emanuel was too partisan to serve effectively in the White House.

“Of course he’s going to be partisan on Capitol Hill,” Panetta said. But he argued that “Rahm Emanuel is basically a centrist.”

Duberstein even suggested Emanuel’s toughest task might be restraining fellow Democrats, rather than fighting with Republicans.

“His challenge will be, with the president, reaching out and building coalitions on the Hill, saying no to some of the president-elect’s most important constituencies,” Duberstein said. “As partisan as Rahm may have been on the Hill, he’s all about governing.”

“There was at least one TV ad during the primaries about, ‘Who do you trust more to answer the phone at 3 o’clock in the morning?’” Duberstein said. “The reality is, the president doesn’t answer the phone at 3 o’clock in the morning. It’s the chief of staff. So the question is, Do you trust Rahm to answer the phone at 3 o’clock in the morning?”

Both men reflected on their White House experiences to offer advice to the president-elect, emphasizing the importance of focusing his agenda and not trying to accomplish too much at once.

Duberstein, for instance, said the mentality of the Reagan’s 1980 transition — “Everything we do is going to be about economic recovery” — was focused on the country’s most immediate challenge.

“You can walk and chew gum at the same time,” he said. “But you have to walk first.”

Panetta, too, suggested that Obama’s first task should be addressing the economic crisis, though he offered the war in Iraq and energy legislation as other top issues. And he foreshadowed the competition for space on Obama’s agenda.

“Health care, a lot of other issues, immigration, et cetera, those kind of have to line up out there,” he said.

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Source: DailyKosTV