Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday declared his unequivocal support for President Donald Trump’s cruise missile strike against Syria to retaliate for a deadly chemical weapons attack that killed 86 people, including 27 children.
“There’s a standard when chemical weapons were used in World War I. It was a declaration where the world was gonna be,” Emanuel said.
“And there’s one person that can make sure that we hold up our values — our human values and values across the waterfront and that’s the [President of] the United States of America. So, I support it.”
Emanuel served as former President Barack Obama’s first White House chief of staff. The mayor was one of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s earliest supporters.
Since Trump’s stunning upset over Clinton, Emanuel and Trump have clashed non-stop. The controversies have included: policing issues and Trump’s relentless attacks on Chicago crime; the president’s travel ban and threat to cut off funding to sanctuary cities; environmental policy; proposed federal budget cuts and the performance of the Chicago Public Schools.
But Emanuel left no doubt that he agrees with Trump that it was in the nation’s interests to prevent the “spread and use of deadly chemical weapons” and that the U.S. needed to take a stand against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
That’s something Obama threatened to do, but never did.
The mayor was asked whether the missile launch had posed any “direct threat” or even any “heightened awareness” in Chicago.
“I’m not privy to the intelligence on that. But based on my work experience, I would say no,” the mayor said.
A few minutes later, Emanuel was more emphatic.
“Nothing as it relates to anybody’s security in the city of Chicago. That is just off the table,” he said.
“We have everything we’re supposed to be doing on any level every day as it relates to security. If you’re saying the president’s actions overnight with the cruise missiles, there’s no implication or anything that anybody has to worry about here in the city of Chicago.”
The 59 missiles, fired from the destroyers USS Porter and Ross in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, struck the airfield where Syria based the warplanes used in the chemical attack, according to Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. The missiles destroyed aircraft, hardened hangars, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems and radar at the Shayrat Airfield.
In launching the strike, Trump argued that “no child of God should ever suffer” the “horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians” that Assad unleashed on his own people.
Using a “deadly nerve agent,” Trump said Assad “choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered at this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
After breaking ground on a city-subsidized affordable housing project for senior citizens on the Near West Side, Emanuel also declared his intention to remain neutral in the crowded Democratic gubernatorial primary for the right to take on Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner.
It happened after the mayor was asked which of the two deep-pockets candidates he favored: billionaire J.B. Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, or Chris Kennedy, whose father, former U.S. Senator Bobby Kennedy, and uncle, former President John F. Kennedy, were both assassinated.
“I’m not picking in that area. The good news is, we’ve got good candidates running. Not just those two. But you have good candidates at every level,” said Emanuel, whose closest business advisor and biggest campaign donor, Michael Sacks, is with Pritzker.
The mayor said he’s all for whomever emerges from a crowded Democratic field that includes mayor’s home Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) and may also include his handpicked City Treasurer Kurt Summers.
Emanuel said his only goal is to defeat Rauner, who recently vetoed Emanuel’s plan to save two of four city employee pension funds and did the same for a bill that would have provided $215 million in pension help already built into the Chicago Public Schools budget.
“What I want to have is a governor [who] will introduce a balanced budget, not go three years without—not only passing one but ever introducing one,” Emanuel said.
The mayor accused his old friend, Rauner, of including the so-called “grand bargain” in the “document” he presented, then working to “tank” the agreement.
The governor’s office had no immediate comment.
Illinois Republican Party spokesman Steven Yaffe issued a sharply-worded emailed response.
“It’s unfortunate that Rahm prefers using duct tape to cover up Chicago’s problems rather than working constructively with Governor Rauner to deliver a good deal for taxpayers and students, both in Chicago and throughout the state,” Yaffe wrote.