Emanuel tries to counter perception of diminished national power

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel | Lou Foglia/Sun-TImes

On the eve of a truncated trip to the Democratic National Convention, Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried Tuesday to counter the perception that his national star power has been diminished.

If it was galling to the mayor to see his sometimes rival, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, seated at the elbow of former President Bill Clinton, the mayor wasn’t letting on. In fact, he was name-dropping.

“As somebody who sat at the side of two presidents for a collective nine years, it’s always an honor to not only be with the president and to sit by them. To help them. I was talking to President Clinton actually over the weekend to help them think through how to meet the challenges of creating jobs, education,” said Emanuel, who served as a political operative in the Clinton White House.

“It’s great to sit by a president — whether they’re a former president or not. To sit by them and help guide them and help also, what I believe will be the next president, Hillary Clinton, think through the right type of policies to address the challenges and the opportunities that lay ahead of all of us.”

If it hurt the mayor that Hillary Clinton has made numerous fundraising trips to Chicago in recent months without appearing in the same same zip code as Emanuel, the mayor wasn’t letting on.

A loyal Democrat who treasures his friendship with the Clintons, Emanuel urged Bernie Sanders supporters to get over it and get behind Hillary Clinton.

“It’s one thing if you want to show your passion for Bernie Sanders. Got it. But the primary is over . . . While there may have been differences in the primary, they’re far fewer and far smaller than the differences between Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, and Donald Trump and Mike Pence,” said Emanuel, who frequently talks strategy with Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

“Only one person is ready to be president on Day One and that’s Hillary Clinton, who will be the president . . . You have to think today of the next generation. And Hillary Clinton has a lifetime record. Not just as first lady. Not just as senator. Not only as secretary of state. But as a mother, as a lawyer, as an advocate thinking of the next generation. And we don’t have a child to waste.”

Four years ago, Emanuel was treated like a political rock star at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte that nominated Barack Obama for a second term.

The man who had engineered the 2006 takeover of the U.S. House and served as Obama’s first White House chief of staff not only spoke to the convention. He was being talked about as a potential candidate for president himself or as a possible running mate.

His Rolodex and fundraising prowess were the envy of the political world.

All of that changed with the furor over Emanuel’s handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting video. It turned the once powerful mayor of Chicago into a cross between a political pariah and a pinata — avoided by his friends, targeted by his enemies.

Hillary Clinton, the former first lady with whom Emanuel clashed during their days together in the Bill Clinton White House before making peace, has steered clear of Emanuel ever since she joined Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s call for a federal civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department that Emanuel initially called “misguided.”

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Meanwhile, Sanders pummeled Emanuel as a Wall Street puppet who closed a record 50 public schools and kept the McDonald shooting video under wraps for more than a year.

Against that backdrop, who could blame the mayor for cutting short a trip to Philadelphia that should have been a victory lap?

Asked Tuesday about his impressions of the Day One spectacle created by Sanders delegates booing the mere mention of Hillary Clinton’s name, Emanuel resurrected an old quote that still applies today.

“I was with my kids watching. And when I saw some of the boos, I said, `You know what? Will Rogers was insightful a hundred years ahead of his time [when he said], `I’m not a member of an organized party. I’m a member of the Democratic Party.’ That’s a joke,” he said.

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