Emanuel Tires of Budget-Battle Comparisons

By Peter Baker
Monday, November 19, 2007

So does history really repeat itself? Not according to onetime White House aide Rahm Emanuel.

Amid all the fireworks of the spending showdown between President Bush and the Democratic Congress, politicians and journalists keep recalling the budget battle of 1995 between President Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress.

Let's see, a politically weakened president fighting an opposition Congress over how much money the government should spend, with neither side all that eager to give in. At stake: The direction of the government and the political fortunes of the protagonists. Can't imagine why anyone would think of 12 years ago.

But Emanuel, then a Clinton aide and now head of the House Democratic Caucus, has grown so exercised by the comparisons that he ordered his staff to work up a one-page chart, complete with color pictures, to show why the two battles are different. Clinton was more popular than Bush is now, the chart notes; he invited Republicans to meet at the White House and defended Medicare. Bush, the chart says, refuses to negotiate, undercuts health care and does not have public trust.

"I've been there," Emanuel told us. "It's not even close to '95."

Dick Armey was there too, of course. He was House majority leader on the other side of the fight. And he agrees -- it's not the same as '95. "For one thing, in 1995, we got our appropriations bills to the White House," he told us. "At least we were competent enough to get something on the table over which we could have a fight."

Ouch. Maybe we can arrange for the two to get together in a nice history symposium somewhere?

Rove's Ratings

As long as others are offering commentary, let's check in with another former White House aide. Meet Karl Rove, pundit.

Bush's longtime strategist did not even wait to file his first column after being signed up by Newsweek last week to offer an assessment of the presidential race, during a talk to a university class taught by C-Span's Steve Scully.

Rudy Giuliani has surprised Rove with his staying power, he said: "I would have raised an eyebrow" if anyone told him at the beginning of the year that the former New York mayor would still be the front-runner heading into the Iowa caucuses. But Rove said Giuliani has done well by making terrorism the centerpiece of his campaign and by selling his stewardship of the Big Apple as an example of conservative leadership. "It speaks to them about his values," Rove said.

The architect of the last two successful Republican campaigns described himself as impressed by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's operation. "Romney's done a very good job, has run a textbook campaign in building strength in Iowa and New Hampshire," he said.

But actor and former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson has been a disappointment. "Early on, he had a very interesting approach, using the Net and a big buzz," Rove said. "I'm not certain that he got in as early enough to take advantage of that buzz."

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