I get no respect,” goes the famous line from the comic Rodney Dangerfield.It may not be so funny to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.Months ago, Emanuel was America’s most powerful mayor. Now Emanuel is maneuvering roiled political waters, swimming hard against wave after controversial wave: rampant street crime, an uproar over police misconduct, a school system on the brink of bankruptcy.The Laquan McDonald police shooting blew up City Hall. The mayor is getting no respect from enemies and friends alike.
For some, Emanuel may be radioactive, a distraction, a don’t-invite-him item.Take Hillary Clinton’s Chicago campaign stop last week.Emanuel goes way back with the Clintons. He served in President Bill Clinton’s White House, and is a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.At a Wednesday morning rally in Bronzeville, Hillary stood with the mothers of Chicago’s dead young. She recited the names of the victims of the city’s horrific gun violence, like Hadiyah Pendleton, and police violence, like Laquan McDonald. Young lives were snuffed out under Emanuel’s watch.Those victims “must motivate every one of us to take on these issues reforming police practices and making it as hard as possible for people to get guns who shouldn’t have them in the first place,” she exhorted.
Emanuel wasn’t there to greet his old friend.
Emanuel goes way back with the current president of the United States. He was Barack Obama’s chief of staff; the president twice endorsed him for mayor.
On Feb. 10, Obama returned to Springfield to address the Illinois General Assembly on compromise and cooperation.
Emanuel wasn’t there to greet his old friend.He had City Council business, according to his office.Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Emanuel are old buds. They did financial deals. They vacationed and drank fine wine in the Montana mountains.A few weeks ago, Emanuel’s old friend declared on WBBM Radio: “The mayor has failed on multiple levels. It’s a tragic failure of leadership,” Rauner said.“I’m not going to discuss the terrible tragedies with the shootings in Chicago. I will talk about Chicago Public Schools, and the financial condition of Chicago. Chicago has basically the lowest credit ratings of any big city, other than Detroit; massive debt, deficits.”
Others may have schadenfreude. That is, according to Wikipedia, “pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.”
During a recent WTTW interview, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was asked whether Illinois’ festering budget crisis might present an opportunity for an alliance between her and Emanuel.
Preckwinkle is no Emanuel fan.
In response, she mentioned a hearing she had held on the state’s budget impasse.
“The city has so many other challenges, that this was something that they chose not to take on,” she said, with a wispy, Cheshire cat smile. “We just decided to take leadership on this, because the mayor had so much else on his plate.”
The March 15 Illinois Primary is weeks away. Democratic candidates are busily trotting out prized endorsements from heavy-hitting politicians. They rush to stand before the cameras and kiss the rings of the high-ranking and the powerful.
Notice Emanuel at those podiums lately? Few seem eager for his political imprimatur.
So why should we care?
Chicago voters chose Emanuel because he was the prescription for a troubled city. A pol’s pol. Tough. Uncompromising. Powerful. Connected.
Now, no respect. That can’t be good for Chicago.