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Brown: Rauner, tuna in hand, lays it on thick for Rahm

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I wouldn’t make too much of this food fight between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner, although that’s exactly what I’m about to do.

It doesn’t matter how we got to the point where Rauner’s office was dismissing Emanuel as a “just another tax-and-spend politician” or to the mayor’s retort that the governor should “stop name calling and just do your job.”

The two of them deserve each other, as we all could see in that swell photo from a few years back of Emanuel toting a bottle of Rauner’s private label wine to dinner with the Rauners at a restaurant near the governor’s Montana ranch.

Whatever Rauner’s faults (and don’t get me started on those) he’s given no indication during his relatively brief time on the public stage that being thin-skinned is one of them.

OPINION

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Our first-year governor (yes, I’m afraid there’s still more than three long years to go, at the very least) has shown he can give as good as he gets in the political clinches without taking it personally.

In that light, Rauner’s purchase Friday of two frozen tuna steaks that he promised to send to the mayor — an homage to Emanuel famously sending a dead fish to a pollster with whom he’d had a dispute — should be seen as nothing more than the governor’s weak attempt at humor.

For his part, Emanuel has been on the receiving end of insults from much more accomplished political operators than Rauner, though probably not since his return from Washington.

The mayor is a big boy, too, capable of putting aside the slings and arrows of his opponent’s public posturing to do what has to be done to accomplish his needs.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, seen here on Friday at the opening of the New City Plaza, has been on the receiving end of insults from much more accomplished political operators than Gov. Bruce Rauner. | Kevin Tanaka / Sun Times
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, seen here on Friday at the opening of the New City Plaza, has been on the receiving end of insults from much more accomplished political operators than Gov. Bruce Rauner. | Kevin Tanaka / Sun Times

And that’s where we have the real problem, folks, not with the finger-pointing, name-calling or blame-gaming, but with the actual substance of the dispute.

In short, both men are asking for too much. Emanuel wants the moon, and Rauner demands the stars — a scenario that’s less conducive to compromise than some editorial boards seem to believe.

Emanuel needs state money, lots of it, if he is to keep the schools open and the CTA running.

Rauner wants to break the public employee unions and the Democrats grip on the Legislature.

Emanuel’s motivation is that he has little choice if he is to keep city government and schools from crashing and burning on his watch — or the city itself if he keeps raising taxes.

Rauner is doing so because the gods of the boardroom have shown him the righteous path to lead Illinois out of the darkness and into the light, and in this quest he shall not be deterred — lest his presidential ambitions fall short of even Scott Walker.

OK, I really have no idea whether he wants to be president, except that all these guys do. But you can take the gods of the boardroom part to the bank and etch it into the stone tablets with the rest of Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda.”

I followed Rauner on Friday to the Paulina Meat Market in Lakeview, where he picked up the tuna steaks to go with a pair of four-inch thick pork chops for his own dinner.

I knew the heady aroma of the smoked meats at the North Side landmark would make the trip worthwhile even if the governor said nothing significant.

“I like ‘em really thick,” Rauner told the guys behind the meat case, admitting he’d never been to the store previously.

Of course not. He’s got people for that.

On his way to the seafood case, Rauner was accosted by a man who demanded to know: “Governor, why are you punishing the poor and disabled?”

Rauner, who always tells us that everywhere he goes the people he meets tell him they support his approach, seemed undeterred.

Later, with his tuna steaks in tow, Rauner said he understands why Emanuel is “sensitive right now” after “passing a big tax hike and not giving structural reform.”

“He’s very sensitive,” Rauner said. “He’s got a lot of really angry constituents, and they’re angry for good reason.”

I wonder whether Rauner knows — or cares — that there are a lot of constituents really angry with him, too.

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