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Emanuel says he backs unions before defending president

Updated: November 21, 2011 12:14PM

DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa Democrats’ choice as keynoter to launch President Obama’s re-election effort here was a man referred to back home in Chicago as a “Republican banker” by the president of Chicago’s Police union.

Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields characterized his line as part of a “joke,” but Shields has said that drug dealers are doing “cartwheels” over Emanuel’s disbanding of specialized teams to put more officers on the beat. The mayor’s conversations with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis have devolved into cussing.

Some Illinois Republicans say they are envious of Emanuel getting away with tough stands against unions that Republicans could never get away with.

“Occupy Des Moines” protestors stood in front of the Jefferson-Jackson dinner Emanuel headlined handing out flyers that say, “Rahm Emanuel is the 1%.”

In a sit-down interview with the Sun-Times before his speech, Emanuel said he is working well with Chicago’s unions and has not forgotten his Democratic roots.

“I’m representing hard-working middle-class families who pay the tax bills and what’s probably surprising to everybody is: you’ve finally got someone in the office whose going to represent the taxpayers,” he said. Rebuilding the city’s water system means, “We’ll put 18,000 people to work – brick-layers laborers, teamsters carpenters, and well be building up new mass transit platforms and stations, that will put a lot of people to work.”

Those are union jobs, Emanuel said. He and the unions worked together to draft wellness and recycling plans.

“We have eliminated a lot of mid-level and senior-level positions that labor had advocated [eliminating] in the past,” Emanuel said. “Those are all partnerships, agreements. I don’t buy the premise that because one person said something … I just gave you five or six different areas where we’re working together.”

In the face of criticism of Obama’s policies toward Israel from some Jewish-American groups, Emanuel has been defending Obama’s record.

“He has been an incredible friend of Israel … a strong, stalwart supporter of Israel,” Emanuel said, ticking off Obama’s decisions to pull the United States out of a conference in which delegates passed resolutions calling Zionism racism; on Obama’s strategy in isolating Iran; on Obama’s support for Israel’s military.

“My view is, to all my friends who are very big advocates for Israel: ‘Look at the record, you’re very smart. Show me where you disagree.’”

Asked if he thought Hillary Clinton should replace Joe Biden as vice-president for the re-election, Emanuel smiled and said, “Joe Biden is going to be veep. Stop.”

As members of the Des Moines Musicians’ Association – Local 75 – finished their performance, Iowa Democratic Chair Sue Dvorsky, a Chicago native, said, “It proves: If you want something done right, you hire union.”

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