Ray LaHood: I Had to Tell Rahm Emanuel Where to Go 'Once a Week'

Thursday, 14 Nov 2013 10:57 PM

By Cathy Burke

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President Barack Obama's former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said "about once a week" he'd have to tell then-chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel to "go to hell," Politico reported Thursday.

“In polite company, we don’t say what Rahm actually said," LaHood said.

But in a panel discussion at the launch of Politico Magazine, ex-Clinton administration Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala recalled Emanuel as having a decidedly different temperment.

“I worked with Rahm too, he never swore in front of me,” Shalala said, prompting LaHood's observation that "he was probably a teenager back then."

Story continues below video.

The two ex-Cabinet members were also joined in the discussion by former President George W. Bush's Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Nicholson — and spoke about problems facing the current administration, including the problem-plagued rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

“This is a software problem, it’s solvable,” Shalala said. “Yes, it’s a debacle, yes they have to work it through, but they have to work it through in the glaring light of politics and every misstep … is going to be caught, so there’s not room for error. That’s the nature of politics. I understand how it could happen."

Nicholson disagreed, saying the issues pointed to a bigger problem within the administration.

“This is a competency problem,” Nicholson asserted.

“I think it’s fair, as you know they sought in Katrina to portray that as a competency issue, that they be held to that level. It sometimes seems to me, and I don’t mean this to sound overly partisan, they do very well when they can delegate something to the military in this administration and they don’t do as well when they can't.”

LaHood said he and Obama forged a longtime friendship and relationship throughout their time together representing Illinois in Congress, and Obama had a relationship with every member of the Cabinet.

LaHood specifically cited the time when his son was detained in Egypt, saying Obama took a deeply personal interest in his case.

He dismissed the idea that the president has trouble connecting with others in D.C.

“I didn’t hear any grousing or complaining about people not having enough access,” LaHood said. “I think that this is something that’s sort of been created that doesn’t fit his personality. This guy is a warm, genuine person that cares about people, and particularly the people that work for him.”

LaHood said the big issue for Obama is that he’s dealing with complete dysfunction in  Congress.

“As somebody who was elected seven times to the House, I will say this, the reason that Congress is at 9 percent according to a poll this morning and the lowest ever maybe in history is because they haven’t done anything, they haven’t solved any problems,” LaHood said.

He said when he joined Congress in 1994, then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and President Bill Clinton were able to work together, as was Congress.

“This idea that somebody else is in control and you can’t get anything done is nonsense. That’s not the history of our country,” LaHood said. “This idea that things are dysfunctional in part is because we have a Congress that doesn’t want to do anything.”

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