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Rahm Emanuel swings at Michael Bloomberg at Gridiron Club dinner

“It’s insane, it’s crazy to think that America is looking for a short, Jewish president. Really? Because if they were, I’d be running,” zinged former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his wife Amy Rule are applauded for their service to the city during the inauguration ceremony for Lori Lightfoot at the Wintrust Arena on May 20, 2019. Emanuel, in an edgy speech at the Gridiron Club and Foundation winter dinner Saturday, Dec. 7, took some swings at ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his wife Amy Rule are applauded for their service to the city during the inauguration ceremony for Lori Lightfoot at the Wintrust Arena on May 20, 2019. Emanuel, in an edgy speech at the Gridiron Club and Foundation winter dinner Saturday, Dec. 7, took some swings at ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

WASHINGTON — Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in an edgy speech at the Gridiron Club and Foundation winter dinner Saturday night, took some swings at a fellow Jew, ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently launched a late-entry presidential bid.

“It’s insane, it’s crazy to think that America is looking for a short, Jewish president. Really? Because if they were, I’d be running,” zinged Emanuel.

Perhaps there is some truth in that joke, to be played out someday.

Emanuel turned 60 last month. If he were in the race for president today, he would be one of the young ones.

The Gridiron is a club of Washington, D.C., journalists, and I’m a member. Emanuel represented Democrats and Sen. Roy Blunt, R- Mo., spoke for Republicans at the black-tie event, where the speeches are expected to come loaded with shtick. Unlike the fancier white tie spring dinner, the president is not invited.

My pals at the dinner all wondered if Emanuel, who was mayor for two terms, was going to run again. Emanuel already served in the U.S. House and was a White House chief of staff. From a Chicago perspective, after being mayor, all that’s left is the White House.

“I’m Jewish,” said Emanuel, as he sliced into a presidential contender’s claim of native American roots. “So like Elizabeth Warren, I’m a member of the tribe. (In case you don’t know, member of the tribe is a term used — usually by Jews — to describe themselves.)

“By the way, on behalf of the entire Jewish community, orthodox, conservative and reform, I want to apologize for Jared and Ivanka. I was mayor of Chicago. I served two consecutive four-year terms. Four years, which is what exactly the judge will give Roger Stone.

“To me, Chicago is a lot like the White House … Both have a large and vibrant Russian community.”

Emanuel turned to Bloomberg, the newest in the large Democratic presidential primary field. Billionaire Bloomberg has already spent millions in the first few weeks of his campaign, where his strategy is to focus on states with primary and caucus votes in March.

“You know what Mike Bloomberg calls Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang? The working poor.”

He piled on more: “Michael Bloomberg is running for president. Finally, a Democrat with a plan to pay for Medicare for all. He’s going to put it on his Visa card.”

Emanuel then quipped about how if the nation wanted a short Jewish president, he would be in the race as he continued his Bloomberg riff. “Bloomberg is kicking off his campaign in Alabama. Is this a good idea? The last Jew they liked down there was Jesus.

“So Bloomberg filed for president in Alabama, and Jeff Sessions is running there again for Senate. Can you imagine the two of them at the same event? Usually, when an Alabaman by the name of Jefferson Session is with a small elderly Jewish guy, he’s got a pitchfork in his hand.”

At the end, Emanuel turned serious, talking about the challenges facing journalism in this Trump era, though he did not use President Donald Trump’s name when he said attacks on a free press are “not normal.”

“... And anyone who wants to destroy that precious freedom, well, as we like to say in Chicago, you can just go f--- yourself.”

Other good Emanuel quips from his speech:

  • “Here we are on Dec. 7th, the day of Infamy,” Emanuel said at the top of his routine. “The day that the president reminds us that Ukraine bombed Pearl Harbor.”
  • “When they told President Trump I was speaking here, he said, ‘What a fool, he should have waited for the subpoena.”’
  • On Vice President Mike Pence, Emanuel said, “In grade school, he insisted the alphabet had 21 letters. There was no L, G, B, T, Q.”
  • “Mayor Pete is getting 100 percent of the gay vote in North Dakota. Their names are Larry and Bob.”
  • “Pete is proof of how things have changed. He’s out of the closet, but his McKinsey clients aren’t.”
  • On former President Barack Obama’s “huge, huge” Netflix deal: “The problem with Netflix is no one really knows what the numbers are. They change constantly, they never really get revealed. It’s like Medicare for all.”