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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript - Rebuilding Distressed Cities

Interview

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BLITZER: There is a surprising report out there suggesting President Obama delivered a little bit of a smackdown to a freshman Congressional member of his own party. "Roll Call" describing it as a gentle ribbing. Let's discuss what's going on with the newly minted Democratic representative, Dan Kildee, of Michigan. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. DAN KILDEE, (D) MICHIGAN: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: I saw the story in "Roll Call." I'll put it up on the screen a few words from it. "Kildee then proceeded to ask what one person described as a somewhat long winded question about the importance of creating jobs for his economically distraught district." You're from Flint. "I can tell you're a freshman because you didn't pay much attention to the "State of the Union," Obama joked. I talked about that." A little bit of a smackdown to you right? What happened?

KILDEE: Well, I think he assumed that I was missing the manufacturing innovation centers which is what he talked about in the "State of the Union." I was actually raising a much bigger issue about cities like Flint and Detroit and Saginaw. Cities that have had, you know, significant economic dislocation and are structurally unsound.

In fact, not only did I not miss the point about manufacturing innovation centers but the previous day had been meeting with White House staff following up on the "State of the Union."

BLITZER: So, you're pretty familiar with the proposals he outlined in his "State of the Union" address.

KILDEE: Very familiar. I've been advocating for them for a long time. And here's the thing, it was a lighthearted moment. I think you sort of --

(CROSSTALK)

KILDEE: It was a closed meeting among Democrats, and it was a lighthearted moment. There was a lot of banter between the president and other members. I wasn't the only one that sort of, you know, created a little kerfuffle. But, look, you're not going to find a bigger fan of President Obama. We're friends. I'm a freshman, but I've been with him now five times since I was elected. So, I don't --

BLITZER: So, when he looked at you, he knew who you were. He recognized you.

KILDEE: He calls me Dan. In fact, the thing that he said that nobody seems to be reporting is he said that he thought I was sort of classing up the place, but I guess, that's not interesting.

BLITZER: So, there are no hard feelings.

KILDEE: No.

BLITZER: No animosity?

KILDEE: No.

BLITZER: He wasn't like ribbing you a little bit.

KILDEE: Look, here's the thing. I'm in the SITUATION ROOM with Wolf Blitzer talking about distressed cities. Any way that I got here is a good thing. The president and I are on the same page. I've been working with his administration even before I got elected on trying to find new ways to breathe life into distressed places.

This manufacturing innovation center is one of them, but I'm promoting a whole series of fixes that will take cities like Flint and lots of other cities around the country to a different place. Allow them to participate in the economic growth that the president is asking for.

BLITZER: Because what Flint is going through -- has been going through, Detroit is about to go through now, that the governor named as a special executive to oversee -- we hope it doesn't happened the bankruptcy proceedings.

KILDEE: It's really tough. There are cities that have been left behind in this economy.

(CROSSTALK)

KILDEE: Flint is one of them. It's been going on for decades, and my belief and this is what I said to the president is that we need to think about significant new investment in these places, not just allowing, you know, the rising tide of the economy to take lots of cities with them. Cities like Flint and Detroit will be left behind.

So, what I was raising with the president and had been talking to his administration about for some time is a whole series of strategies that will allow us to retrain workers, deal with the blight and abandonment, deal with the aging infrastructure in those places, create a platform for them to actually be able to benefit from economic growth. And the president and I are on the same page in getting there.

BLITZER: Good luck to you, your district in Flint and the area I know they're going through some tough times in Detroit as well. We had the governor on the show here yesterday.

KILDEE: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

KILDEE: All right.


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