WASHINGTON—When Mayor Rahm Emanuel was President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, the two men had a joke about the grueling never-ending decisions they had to make: One day they would open a T-shirt shack on a Hawaiian beach. And they would make no decisions about the inventory. The shirts would be in one color. And in one size.
That’s a scene from the new CNN series “Chicagoland.” The show debuts at 9 p.m. Chicago time Thursday night with new episodes—there will be eight in all– rolling out each week.
At one point a reflective Emanuel said, “So I’ve been fortunate to work for two really good presidents, and I’ve learned a lot from both of them.
Emanuel continues, “When I was going through it, being Chief-of-Staff, every Chief-of-Staff hates it. It is the most difficult job in America. There’s a target on your back, nothing you do anybody likes, and you gotta make sure it works for the president. And then, when you make your decision, you’re not done because everybody else says you’re an idiot.
“The first nine months to a year, I had this joke with the president, ‘cause we would go like from Auto meeting, the next would come in Financial meeting, the next would come in: the economy’s collapsing, the next would come in: Afghanistan’s unraveling, we gotta get out of Iraq, and you go from meeting to meeting, 45 minutes and you would have to make all these decisions and it just like pounding and pounding and pounding
“… So I used to say to him, “you know Mr. President, I really don’t want to make any more decisions.” We joked that when we got out of the White House, we were going to set up a little T-Shirt shack in Hawaii that looks right out to the beach. We were going to sell one color: white; one size: medium. We didn’t have to make a decision, and you could just look, because we were done.”
THE BREAKOUT STAR: The first two episodes focus on the drama over Emanuel’s plan to close 54 Chicago Public Schools and grapple with violence on the South Side of the city.
While Emanuel and Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy are well known figures featured in the series, the breakout star in the two shows I viewed is Fenger High School Principal Elizabeth Dozier.
My former Sun-Times colleague Mark Konkol, now with DNAInfo Chicago helped shape the series and narrates the shows. Former Sun-Times videographer Jon Sall was also part of the project.
The CNN honchos are in Chicago today for a screening at the Bank of America Theatre and an after party at Underground on Illinois Street.