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Steinberg: McCarthy’s real friends would be urging him not to run

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (left) and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy appear at a news conference in November 2015. | Associated Press

Follow @neilsteinbergThe reattachment surgery must have been a success.

Former Supt. Garry McCarthy, whose manhood resided in a jar on Rahm Emanuel’s desk for nearly five years while he ran Chicago’s troubled police department into a ditch, seems to be working himself up toward taking a crack at steering the whole city.

I misstate the case. The East Coast transplant is not himself considering candidacy. But “a lot of people” are urging him to run. He is just the reporter, odd for a man who so scorns the media. Just passing along information, noting that he himself is not the mayoral sort. Politics is “not in my DNA,” McCarthy said. He’s “not very good at that.”

I bet. In that light, maybe the surgery wasn’t a complete success — the man can’t even float his own candidacy without fobbing off the blame onto others. We are supposed to see this feint as modesty — a cliche 400 years ago when Shakespeare put it in Richard III’s mouth: “Alas, why would you heap these cares on me? I am unfit for state and majesty.”

McCarthy wants to be begged. He expects us to throw our hats in the air, let out a cheer and demand the salvation he is too humble to offer without prodding.

OPINION

Follow @neilsteinbergI’d prefer a list of those friends’ names. Who are they and why do they think McCarthy should be our next mayor? Aren’t we already enduring one bantam cock on the fifth floor? Is their solution really finding a different rooster?

Yes, the expiration date on Rahm is long past. He’s like that cup of yogurt you discover in the back of the fridge, hidden for months, and as you pitch it you glance inside out of curiosity, and it’s all hideous and green.

But don’t underestimate Rahm’s shape-shifting, Terminator quality. The smoke cleared around the blast field of the Laquan McDonald case, the red eye blinked to life, and a soot-smeared figure appeared over the crater lip. Rahm lives!

Besides, we’ve got until 2019 to worry about that. We’ve still got a governor’s race to get through. Having accomplished nothing, Bruce Rauner isn’t in as bad of a position as he’d be if any of his initiatives had worked, though inactivity is not a success strategy.

This vulnerability has drawn former Merchandise Mart head Chris Kennedy and, on Thursday, J.B. Pritzker, into contention. “A race with three billionaires,” a city editor quipped ruefully, and I replied that Kennedy isn’t a billionaire. “He’s the poor man of the group.” (Nor is Rauner a billionaire — a common misconception —

except in his dreams).

I’d been hoping that Kennedy would drop out before I felt obligated to say anything about him. But he seems to really be running, still, so this is as good a moment as any to explain that, when dealing with Kennedy, I am compromised. I won’t use the word “friend” — I wouldn’t ask him to help me move, or loan me $20 — but we’ve been friendly acquaintances for a decade. Both my boys volunteered a summer working for his Top Box Foods. My family has had dinner at his house, and gone sailing at Hyannis Port. So keep that in mind should the subject arise.

However, I do pride myself on a well-exercised professional ingratitude. When I wrote a book about my father, my dad didn’t talk to me for six months. In my view either Kennedy or Pritzker will lose to Rauner. Kennedy because he can be awkward as heck and the romance of the Kennedy name (his father was Robert F. Kennedy) is cool ash at this point. Look what being a Clinton did for Hillary. My sincere personal advice, while he was contemplating the run, was that he absolutely shouldn’t. “Everything you consider an asset is really a liability,” I said. Maybe that makes me a better friend than I think, since Garry McCarthy’s friends seem to want to see him leap into the Rahm buzzsaw. Friends don’t let friends run for office.

Pritzker, well . . . how shall I say this? . . . presents an image that will not necessarily be embraced down in Wayne County. Donald Trump needed to sprinkle his strongest hallucinatory dust to convince people that turning his father’s millions into hundreds of millions makes him a business genius. Pritzker’s most savvy career move was being born, so he might have a tougher time of it.

These are all things to look forward to. I’m taking a couple weeks off — which I mention because otherwise readers assume I’ve been fired, am dead or in jail. See you in a fortnight.

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