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Cinema of the Damned

Daniel J. Kelley 14 February 2012 3 Comments

Rahm Emanuel recently gave a 90 minute interview to the Chicago Tribune, which got off to a rocky start with the odd declaration, “I hate you all equally” from the Mayor. I read the contentious Chicago Tribune interview transcript in its entirety. It had a angry, defensive and surrealistic flavor to it.

The ostensible reason for the interview is that Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had promised an open and transparent administration while campaigning for office, has been withholding internal communications, including emails, and otherwise denying Freedom of Information Act requests. The administration’s position is that the communications are confidential and privileged and are, therefore, not subject to disclosure. The stonewalling has backfired in a big way as journalists have begun to ask more basic questions along the lines of “What exactly is Emanuel hiding?”


It would appear that the brief Emanuel honeymoon with the press is over after less than ten months or so. Trampling upon the Bill of Rights and constantly seeking to raise taxes, fees and water rates will do that for you. Emanuel apparently does not like responding to questions. The former Tsar of Russia held the title of Supreme Autocrat, but when I last looked Emanuel was elected to serve as mayor, not as an emperor.

Less than one year ago, Rahm Emanuel (D-Wilmette) was elected to succeed Chicago’s longest serving mayor, Richard M. Daley, in a campaign that went to great lengths to show Emanuel was a really calm, collected and capable Chicagoan and nothing like his perceived public persona of a profane bully. Special emphasis was placed on Emanuel’s idyllic city childhood since his chief rival, Gery Chico, a graduate of the Chicago Public Schools, had referred to Emanuel’s actual background of suburban privilege as a wedge issue. In a poorly attended election, it did not matter.

2011 was not the first time that Emanuel had to conflate his biography. Rahm’s few brief years in spent in Albany Park had to be expanded upon ad nauseam when Emanuel placed the winning bid and secured the party blessing to succeed his erstwhile friend Rod Blagojevich in Congress in 2002. Running in the Illinois 5th Congressional District nevertheless had its advantages: the 10th Congressional District, where Emanuel had spent most of his life, was a competitive district that actually had an incumbent Republican (Mark Kirk) and, perhaps more importantly, some long time residents of New Trier Township actually knew and remembered Emanuel. In the 5th District, Rahm was unknown and could safely construct his own back story and narrative.

What could possibly have been a complaint against Emanuel in the North Shore district? It has been alleged that one point of adolescent commonality existed between President Obama and his first former Chief of Staff. Both men were labeled as choosing to hang with the burnouts and stoners in high school. Gary Aldrich’s now forgotten political expose’ “Unlimited Access” painted an unflattering picture of a foul mouthed Emanuel and some of the other staffers in the Clinton White House. Aldrich’s thesis was that many of these individuals would not have been granted security clearances to work in the White House under prior administrations for a variety of reasons. The casual morals and laissez faire attitudes of the Clintons made such concerns archaic. Obama has been much more open about his former wasted days and wasted nights than the ambitious Emanuel. Another factor may have been that Emanuel was not considered popular at New Trier High School owing to his general obnoxiousness. Similar rumors from Union City, Michigan, where Emanuel maintains a Summer vacation home, paint him as a less than beloved neighbor. Still, he is welcome up the road at David Axelrod’s lake cottage.

Thus far, Emanuel has proven as unpopular with the rank and file members of the Chicago Police Department as his predecessor. Many cops resent having another out of town applicant appointed to serve as police superintendent. Some officers have taken to calling His Honor “Tiny Dancer” and “Old Raccoon Eyes.” Maybe he should drink less coffee and try to get some more sleep.

Returning to the interview, I felt positively embarrassed for the mayoral staff member, Sarah Hamilton, who had to sit through the ordeal of their boss alternately praising himself, evading questions, criticizing the media and denying knowledge of whether or not he has a city owned cell phone. The distinction is that calls placed on a publicly owned telephone might be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.

Emanuel conducted himself with all of the charm and diplomacy of the late Howard Cosell. Space limitations do not permit an analysis of all of the surly remarks, but two really seemed over the top. As he thrusted and parried with the Tribune reporter, David Kidwell, Emanuel made the following statements:

“I have been in an executive position, and — I mean this (is) insulting so get it right — you haven’t,” said Emanuel.

“I’ve been the chief of staff to the president of the United States, I have been a congressman, I have been elected four times. I have been in the leadership of the United States House of Representatives. I have been a senior adviser to the president of the United States, Probably the most public person, and this is in the record, who has been accountable along the way.”

I wondered if Rod Blagojevich would have had the audacity to tell Judge James Zagel that he was entitled to sovereign immunity on the basis of having been elected seven times. Using Emanuel’s reasoning, Blagojevich had to be bleeping golden since he was elected more often than Rahm, himself, right?

Emanuel continued in this vainglorious vein by crediting himself for a host of Democratic legislative and policy accomplishments since 1993. He stopped short of claiming credit for having perfected sliced bread and pasteurized milk.

Reading the entire transcript of the interview, I experienced a strange sense of déjà vu. It was as if I recalled the same thing having been played out as a dramatic and maudlin scene before. I was not imagining all of this. Compare the embarrassing portions of the Emanuel transcript to a lengthy monologue delivered by Jerry Lewis in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” which was released to theaters in 1983:

I’m sure you can understand. Doing the kind of show I’m doing, it’s mind-boggling. There’s so much stuff that comes down… you can’t keep your head clear. And if that’s the case, I’m wrong. You’re right. I’m wrong. If I’m wrong, I apologize. I’m just a human being… with all of the foibles and all of the traps… the show, the pressure… the groupies, the autograph hounds… the crew, the incompetence… those behind-the-scenes you think are your friends. You’re not sure if you’ll be there tomorrow… because of their incompetence. There are wonderful pressures that make every day… a glowing, radiant day in your life. It’s terrific. OK, if all of that means nothing… if I’m wrong, in spite of all that… then I apologize. I’m sorry. If you accept my apology… I think we should shake hands. We’ll forget the whole thing. I won’t press charges. You could be in deep trouble… but I will not press charges.

With careful editing, some of the movie script could be inserted into the interview transcript and no one would know the difference.

The Tribune interview was one part of an overall bad press week for the increasingly embattled mayor. Other reports questioned whether or not, Emanuel operatives have been compensating activists and protestors attending meetings of the Chicago Board of Education to publicly support the mayor’s proposed school reform agenda. Worse still, it seemed as if the Emanuel administration appeared to have had exploited the death a child to promote a new program to install even more traffic control cameras to detect speeding in school zones.

The distortion was the child, Diamond Robinson, named in talking points had not been killed while en route to school. The tragic accident actually occurred on a weekend. While the overall purpose of the initiative was to promote greater pedestrian safety and to reduce traffic fatalities, some of the pedestrian accident fatality facts and numbers used by the administration did not quite add up when subjected to close scrutiny either.

The lobbyist for one of the camera companies that would stand to benefit from an expanded camera program, which would also generate an estimated $70 million in increased ticket revenue for the city, happened to be Michael Kasper, who is also counsel to Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan. Kasper, a man who wears many hats, is also one of the leading election law attorneys in the state. Approximately one year ago, Kasper helped Emanuel survive a nasty residency challenge to his mayoral candidacy by citing an obscure 1867 quo warranto action concerning a nominee for a judicial appointment that somehow trumped the plain meaning of the Illinois Municipal Code as to candidate residency requirements for elected officials.

Kasper’s wife, attorney Laura C. Liu, was appointed to a position on the Circuit Court of Cook County by the State Supreme Court on December 17, 2010. Since that time, Emanuel has endorsed Liu for election to a full judgeship on the court and helped her raise tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. Such is the circle of life in the Cook County Democratic Party.

Drive safely.

Daniel J. Kelley is a recovering cinema patron and a contributor to “The Chicago Daily Observer.”

image The Damned single “Neat, Neat, Neat”


  • Jim Ridings said:

    I often wonder why liberals are so full of hate. Someone posted a link to a Bill Maher monologue, and this always-unfunny, always-foul-mouthed “comedian” went on and on in a hate-filled rant. Even the liberal guests on his show could show little more than a smile or smirk because he wasn’t very funny. Too much hate there. Why is that?

  • Frank Debarnone said:

    Even though there was an election that I am going to beleive for the moment was valid, Emanuel came in on a railroad train.

    Yes, Chicago was railroaded.

    News flash: Wooo Wooo! Emanuel is still on the train and has the ability to lay tracks toward anything he deems an obsticale.

    Good job in electing him Democractic Machine homies! It was like deciding to run the El in the streets because you can’t keep it on the tracks. That’s right my Mechanized Friends, he is gonna have no qualms about running over you too.

    Suffice is to say, he is gonna damage this town and probably walk away
    with a grand chunk of our money in the end.

  • Pat Hickey said:

    A new genre Slime Noir, Brother Kelley.

    No trenchcoats and no swell dames. Sordid, but no plot.

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