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Rendell: Obama must start ‘fighting back’ |

Rendell: Obama must start ‘fighting back’

| Wednesday, June 20, 2012 3:22 p.m
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell
Philip G. Pavely
Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell during a book signing at Duquesne University Tuesday, June 19, 2012. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)
Philip G. Pavely
Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell during a book signing at Duquesne University Tuesday, June 19, 2012. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)
Philip G. Pavely
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell during a book signing at Duquesne University in June 2012. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)
Philip G. Pavely
Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell during a book signing at Duquesne University Tuesday, June 19, 2012. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)
Philip G. Pavely
Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell chats with Ben Vollmer (from right), Reid Pro, and his mther Kim Pro during a book signing at Duquesne University Tuesday, June 19, 2012. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)

President Barack Obama is running a poor re-election campaign but has not totally “wussed” out yet, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told the Tribune-Review on Tuesday.

Rendell is stumping for Obama and plans to attend the Democratic National Convention in September as a commentator for NBC News. He praised Obama for passing the auto industry bailout, the stimulus package and health care law, but said the president allowed opponents to frame those debates.

“Start calling them out on the lies,” Rendell said he would advise the president. “Fight back. Virtually every state I went into, I would have a session that I would call ‘Truth or fiction.’ ”

Rendell visited Pittsburgh to promote his autobiography, A Nation of Wusses, which calls out politicians for doing what’s popular rather than what’s right. Rendell said he wrote the first draft in longhand and hopes the book will inspire young people to take up public service.

The former Democratic governor and Philadelphia mayor can call out other politicians but he has warts, political observers said.

“When you think of Rendell, you think of him going around the state carrying the cardboard checks,” said Jerry Shuster, a University of Pittsburgh political communications professor. “There’s no problem with him being critical of other politicians, but at the same time he needs to include himself.”

During an hour-long interview, Rendell credited Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, for upholding campaign promises — such as not taxing the natural gas industry — even if the resulting budget cuts are unpopular.

“Even though I disagree with a lot of his policies, he’s not a wuss because he told you what he was going to do during the campaign,” Rendell said. “You do what you say and what you believe, and you do it regardless of the consequences. … He’s taken a hit, so he’s not a wuss.”

Rendell said he has no plans to run for another elected office. Legislative office holds little charm for someone accustomed to giving orders, he said, and no presidential candidate would pick him as a running mate because he runs his mouth.

Instead, Rendell pines to work in the White House administration of Hillary Clinton, should she seek the presidency again and win. He devoted a chapter of his book to lobbying the secretary of State to run for the office. Though Clinton has said she will not do so, Rendell believes she could be convinced to change her mind in the future.

“I would love being part of Hillary’s campaign. And if she won, would I come to Washington? It would depend,” he said. “To be in the White House, to be chief of staff or deputy chief of staff or domestic policy advisor, that might have some real interest.”

Although state lawmakers from both parties who held office during Rendell’s two terms have gone to prison, Rendell said he had no idea they were engaging in corruption.

“I spent 24 years as an elected official and never had anybody who worked for me arrested or indicted for anything,” said Rendell, a former Philadelphia prosecutor. “That’s just because I set the tone for the people who worked with me — but it’s impossible to set a tone for a legislative body.”

Few regrets loom larger, Rendell said, than failing to see the Steelers and Eagles face off in football’s Super Bowl. The Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl in Jacksonville to end the 2004 season but the Steelers lost in the conference championship. Four years later, the Steelers made it to the big game but the Eagles lost to Arizona.

“If it had been Eagles-Steelers, what would have happened?” Rendell said. “Oh my God, Jacksonville would have been torn to the ground, brick by brick.”

Andrew Conte is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7835 or

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