CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayor Emanuel is riding a wave of praise from White House Cabinet members as he continues to show his kinder, gentler side in public.

But his powers of persuasion don’t agree with everyone. Last week, witnesses describe an expletive-filled phone call to Gov. Pat Quinn over how the governor has dealt with casino gambling and pension reform.

The mayor reportedly blames Quinn for the implosion of legislation last week that would have tamed the state’s pension obligations, which are in the tens of billions of dollars. Quinn also has been seen as an obstacle to a Chicago casino.

The mayor on Friday side-stepped the issue of whether coarse language erupted in his conversation with Quinn, unless “cost-of-living adjustment” is a swear word.

“I never knew COLA was a four-letter word,” Emanuel said at an unrelated news conference with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “I share with the governor the commitment of getting retirement security for the state. Because I think the alternative is not viable, and I want to make sure we get it done.”

The mayor steered the conversation with reporters back to topic. He appeared with Vilsack on the issue of “food deserts,” or urban areas that lack adequate access to fresh food and produce.

The Agriculture Department has helped finance a produce bus that will get into the so-called deserts. It pulled up to Brunson Elementary in the Austin neighborhood Friday afternoon and was soon flooded with students who selected produce over junk food.

Of course, Secretary Vilsack soon found out the mayor wasn’t satisfied with one new bus, CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports. The administration wants four more buses.

“We’re going to make sure we get those four buses, or we’re not going to let Tom out of town,” Emanuel joked.

Vilsack was the third cabinet secretary in Chicago this week bearing gifts. Energy Secretary Steven Chiu was here Tuesday, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis was in Thursday. All know the mayor and his forthright style from his days as gatekeeper to the President who appointed them.

Emanuel, a former congressman from Chicago’s North Side, was once infamous for using salty language in his private tirades. As a candidate for mayor, and in his first year in office, he has presented a mostly even-keeled persona to the public.

Earlier this year, Quinn addressed the sometimes colorful words the mayor has used in private conversations, calling it a “language problem” he has discussed with his fellow Democrat.

“He might have said a bad word, and I said, ‘It’s not a good idea. We want to teach our kids right,’” Quinn told Levine in February. “He’s improving.”