Friday, December 11, 2015
Rahm's crocodile tears
I don't know which is worse. The drama and self-importance of the protesters, reeling around Michigan Avenue, venting their demands, insisting that Rahm Emanuel resign, as if that would do anything. Or the dewy-eyed performance of the mayor, who can quiver his lip and apologize and take responsibility and insist that Things Are Going to Change without giving any indication of what that change might be.
First, the protests. I would bet none of them have the foggiest idea who would be mayor if Emanuel quit, which he won't. Do you? It would be the city's vice mayor, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd). Sure, he's the man to fix everything. Just last month, while black aldermen were condemning Garry McCarthy, Reilly was most prominent among the white aldermen genuflecting before the doomed police superintendent, singing his praises.
"Yours is one of the most difficult jobs in the City of Chicago, and we just want to make sure that you've got the resources that you need to complete the mission," Reilly warbled.
So that's the guy who'll fix the police department when Rahm resigns? Which he won't. Reilly would soon be replaced by the Chicago City Council, and we all know what kind of genius they've made mayor in living memory: puppet Eugene Sawyer.
Yet the mob calls for Emanuel's head. Long term strategic planning is not the strong suit of mobs.
Leading us to the man who is never resigning, Rahm Emanuel. He's been mayor for nearly five years. Don't you know him yet? This is the guy when Hillary Clinton fired him, refused to go, but wrapped his arms around Bill Clinton's knees and pleaded until he was allowed to stay. He doesn't quit, because that would mean he hasn't won, and Rahm has to always win. It's a rule. He aims high.
"Nothing less than complete and total reform of the system and the culture that it breeds will meet the standard we have set for ourselves as a city," Emanuel said Wednesday, somehow restraining himself from adding, "except of course the mayor. The mayor stays."
Empty words. "The standard we have set for ourselves as a city." Since when? When did we set that standard? On Wednesday? And why was it set? Because after nearly five years of ignoring police malfeasance Emanuel finally snapped to attention. And why did he snap to attention? Because the blood of Laquan McDonald touched whatever spider web of a soul is to be found within the mayor? It sure didn't for the first 13 months after it happened. Emanuel couldn't even bring himself to watch the video. Or so he says.
No, the New York Times published a call for his resignation—that's gotta hurt—and the The Magnificent Mile Association keeps phoning, shrieking, "Can't you get these people out from in front our stores. It's Christmas!" And suddenly he's solving our nation's racial biases on the backs of the police department.
Sure, they could do a better job of weeding out bad apples. But protecting incompetents is what unions do: I've belonged to one and watched it operate for nearly 30 years, and while I think unions are important organizations, I also know that no reporter could be so big a screw-up or head case that the union wouldn't go to bat for him. In a newspaper, it leaves you with goldbricks, in the teacher's union, lousy teachers, but with the police that kills people. Every cop involved in one of these horrific shootings has a jacket as long as my arm, where nothing was done. The only reason we're worked up now is because of advances in video technology, which the whole ossified buddy-buddy Mount Greenwood cabal of inbred law enforcement has yet to figure out how to sidestep. But they will. Meanwhile, it'll be interesting to see how the mayor creates the illusion of change, so he can get through this, see out his term, and then go on to wherever it is mayors go, exiting with all the dignity he can muster, citing figures and statistics like an auctioneer that proves, to him if no one else, that he was the best mayor ever.
Speaking of ex-mayors. You know who must be having a good laugh right now? Richard M. Daley? I really wish he dwelled in the temporal world so I could ask him. But he's on some whatever astral plane, being ferried on his buddies private jets from the Gold Coast to Shanghai and back, chuckling so hard his shoulders shake. Here's the guy who shrugged off pleas from Amnesty International to investigate torture allegations against Jon Burge, who sold off the city's assets to cover the commitments he traded for votes but couldn't keep, and left the city a stinking financial mess sliding toward utter ruin. Lauded as the best mayor in the country, rode off into the sunset as the city blew kisses at him. Meanwhile Rahm, twice the administrator Daley was, has fallen and can't get up.
That's my takeaway from his speech. Don't be fooled by emotion. Rahm Emanuel is just the latest politician signing a check he can't cash.