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Colbert Calls Out Rahm Emanuel for Taking Shots at Sanders: ‘Are You Here Tonight to Kneecap Bernie?’

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Former Chicago mayor and Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel took several direct shots at 2020 Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders on The Late Show, prompting host Stephen Colbert to ask: “Are you here tonight to kneecap Bernie?”

Colbert kicked off his Monday night interview with the notoriously blunt Emanuel by asking if Democrats are all “in love” with Sanders, who has won two and tied for first in the first three Democratic primary contests.

“No we’re not. We’ve got a ways to go on this,” Emanuel replied, before citing historical precedent for opposing Sanders’ candidacy.

“In the last hundred years, three Democrats have won reelection for president — Franklin Roosevelt, President [Bill] Clinton, Barack Obama. They “ran with the same strategy as did the midterm elections in 2006 and 2018 of an urban, suburban, metropolitan coalition. Bernie is saying ‘Forget that. Screw it.’ Basically, there are about 70 million socialists ready to be awoken to their inner socialist. And I would just say to you if our number one, two, three, four, five, six goal is to get rid of Donald Trump, it is a really big risk to go on a political strategy that has never been tried before.”

Emanuel’s pessimistic take on Sanders’ chances is not new. The former Obama aide, who counseled his boss to abandon passing Obamacare out of political expediency, has taken high-profile, thinly-veiled shots at Sanders during the campaign. Nearly a year ago, he mocked left-wing proposals like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal in an op-ed in The Atlantic.”If Trump’s only hope for winning a second term turns on his ability to paint us as socialists, we shouldn’t play to type,” Emanuel wrote, attacking Sanders in all but name. And a few months later, Emanuel wrote an opinion piece for Politico complimenting Biden for his “discipline” and dismissing the kinds of passionate, progressive voters flocking to Sanders campaign as little more than a mirage: “All the activists are missing that voters are pragmatic. Activists aren’t pragmatic,” Emanuel wrote. “That’s what Joe Biden has shown. He’s shown that Democrats want to win. It’s not about ‘You’re not for Medicare for all.’ C’mon.”

When Colbert turned to the next Democratic debate, Emanuel again didn’t miss an opportunity to take a jab at Sanders.

“What do you think happens tomorrow night? Because last week everybody had the knives out for Bloomberg, now that Bernie is out front…” Colbert began.

“This is, like, nuts,” Emanuel cut in. “Bloomberg is not on the ballot, the frontrunner is, like, three feet over this way, you’re swacking at this guy, and the guy over here, [referring to Sanders], two years ago in Vegas, there was one of the worst mass shootings in American history. Bernie Sanders was against the assault weapon ban and had a really good NRA vote [rating] nobody brings the subject up? I think that’s nuts. And if you don’t know how to bring the subject up, you should not be the nominee, because that’s political 101.”

“Are you here tonight to kneecap Bernie Sanders? Because you’re sweeping the leg here, man.” Colbert pressed.

“No, here’s the thing,” Emanuel replied. “You have a presidential contest. You have the U.S. Senate with a good chance to take it. You have the House elections where we have a majority there. You have all the governorships, state houses up. So it’s not just a presidential. This is a national election of national import.”

“Why do you think Bernie is leading, then?” Colbert pressed.

“I think all the opposition is divided,” Emanuel said. “Ten years ago…1992, 1996, if you won a presidential election, in 2008, if you had been third or fourth three times in a row, you’d be out. But because of the Internet and all the fundraising that’s going on, everybody is going to stay around the hoop thinking this is not possible for Bernie to be there and so you have four or five people still in the field, still on the field and they should be by this time off the field and then it would go one on one.”

“Who should go first?”

“Not for me to say,” Emanuel said, dodging hard.

“You’re already saying it!” Colbert exclaimed.

Watch the video above, via CBS.

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