Rahm Emanuel backs Obama's plan to take action

“I think the Congress of the United States should make sure America stands tall at this moment,” Emanuel said, referring to Syria. “This is not an easy choice.”

President Obama’s former chief of staff made the comments during an appearance on CBS’s “The Late Show with David Letterman” on Monday night. 

He explained Obama faced a similar crossroads during the auto industry bailout in his first term. About 80 percent of voters opposed the bailout, he said. 

“[Obama] goes into the Oval Office. He knows the country is not behind him. He knows what he think is right. And that’s what the chief of staff has to help the president [do] — how to navigate an unpopular set of politics but is in the national interest,” Emmanuel said. 

Emanuel resigned as chief of staff about two years into Obama's presidency and ahead of the 2010 midterm elections. He previously served three terms in Congress and as a senior adviser to former President Bill Clinton. 

During “Letterman,” Emanuel demonstrated his impression of the 42nd president in a slurred, quiet southern drawl. 

“David, this is a big deal,” he said, imitating Clinton’s voice. “It’s really a big deal being here on Letterman. … This presidency thing is really good but I want to be on late night.”

On working for Obama, Emanuel said he didn’t want to be chief of staff and said it was the most intense job he ever had. Being mayor is the greatest job, he said. 

He announced earlier this year he’s running for mayor again in 2015. 

Emanuel and other former White House chiefs of staff are appearing in “The President’s Gatekeepers,” a four-hour Discovery Channel documentary debuting Wednesday and Thursday night.