A falling star in Chicago.Mar 23, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 27 • By JOSEPH EPSTEIN
Difficult, they say, to pass a family business on to the third generation. Proof of this assertion is the business known as the City of Chicago, run by the Daley family for two generations but now turned over to non-Irish carpetbaggers, with no future Daley in view. In the interregnum between Daley père (Richard J.) and Daley fils (Richard M.), a few interlopers ran the joint: Harold Washington, a machine hack named Michael Bilandic, and Jane Byrne, who got into office because of Bilandic’s failure to shovel the snow from the streets, thus conferring on the city’s only female mayor the quite appropriate title Snow Queen.
Rahm Emanuel, the current mayor, who is ensnared in a runoff election he ardently wanted to avoid, and who vastly overspent his four earlier rivals in seeking to do so, is in some ways symbolic of the new Chicago, at least of its white population. Emanuel grew up on the city’s prosperous North Shore, the son of a physician. After working for various Democratic party causes, then serving on the staff of Bill Clinton, he ducked briefly into finance. After four years (1998-2002) running the Chicago office of an investment firm called Wasserstein Perella, he removed himself from the financial wars. He did so having walked away with a personal profit of more than $16 million, which only goes to show that with the right political connections one need not waste two dullish years acquiring a silly MBA. Emanuel was on the board of directors of Freddie Mac during part of that time, a bad period for the agency, which was visited with scandal. Three quick terms in Congress preceded Emanuel’s hitch as Barack Obama’s chief of staff. Rumor had it that he left the White House because Obama family confidante Valerie Jarrett diminished his effectiveness. A more likely reason is that his own ambitions were too grand to be content with the job.
Now that Chicago has lost much of its industrial base, the city is less and less working class in character. Where Chicago isn’t preponderantly black or Hispanic, it tends to be youthful and prosperous. Young couples have moved into and refurbished drab working-class neighborhoods. The old notion of the city as a collection of ethnic neighborhoods, at any rate of neighborhoods lived in by white ethnics, is now obsolete. Demographically, Chicago isn’t even any longer predominantly white. Roughly 32 percent of the city is black, and another 31 percent Hispanic, along with 5 percent Asian.
In this runoff, Rahm Emanuel’s opponent is a man named Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. (Chuy is pronounced Chu-wee; Chu-wee Garcia sounds like nothing so much as a 10-cent cigar.) Garcia is a man in his late fifties who has been a state senator, a city alderman, and a Cook County commissioner, three great forcing houses of local corruption. A boy with whom I went to high school, after a long and undistinguished career in the Illinois state senate, for example, has been able to finagle himself an annual pension in excess of $170,000. Because of such antics, pervasive in if not part of the system, Illinois has fallen into deep debt, and USA Today has judged it “the worst run” state in the country—do I hear laughter coming out of Mississippi?—while Chicago’s bond rating, owing to $20 billion in unfunded pension obligations, has now fallen a mere two levels above junk bonds.
The Emanuel-Garcia runoff finds Chicago voters nicely divided. Chuy Garcia is no charmer, but in the charm category Emanuel suffers an even greater deficit. His act—a Jewish Jimmy Cagney, with profanity added—has not won him lots of extra friends. Appearing nightly on local television, he resembles nothing so much as that annoying student who is always raising his hand but never has convincing answers. What you see in Rahm Emanuel is what you get, and what you get is raw ambition. In his case you get the strong sense that he wants to succeed as mayor not so much for Chicago but for himself, so he can move on to the United States Senate, to a major cabinet post, to, who knows, keyn eynhore, the presidency. Rahm Emanuel, clearly, is in business for himself.
His campaign counselors recognize Rahm has a humility problem. (How can’t I be humble, he once responded, I live with teenagers and a wife?) In the expensive effort to combat this, a current television ad has him, in cashmere sweater and open-collar shirt, sparse gray hair nicely poofed and moussed, confessing that he knows he sometimes rubs people the wrong way, speaks too quickly rather than listens, comes off as overly aggressive. But, he goes on in the ad to say, he really can’t help it; if he is guilty of all these things, it is owing to his ardor to solve the problems of our fair city.
11:34 AM, Mar 9, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is removing some of the money-making traffic cameras from the city’s intersections.
9:03 PM, Feb 19, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is up for reelection, and President Obama stopped by his campaign headquarters to praise his mayor.
6:38 AM, Oct 21, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Last night at a Democratic fundraiser in Chicago, President Obama mentioned that there are some "unpaid bills" on his desk in Chicago--which he left when moved to the White House after winning the presidential election in 2008. Here's what he said:
Joseph Epstein; a fan's notes.Oct 13, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 05 • By JOSEPH EPSTEIN
Sometime in mid-February, after the long winter, baseball fans are delighted to read, usually over a two-paragraph-long story buried beneath the fold in the sports pages, the tag line Pitchers and Catchers Report. They are reporting, of course, to spring training two or three weeks ahead of the rest of their teams, and the announcement bodes the first news of the lengthy and leisurely baseball season ahead.
9:21 PM, Oct 1, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama has arrived in Chicago, where he'll spend the night before two public events in his hometown. The president did not travel with his family.
He's now dining out with top adviser Valerie Jarrett and various friends, according to the White House pool report. They're at the steak house RPM Steak, where a nice cut can cost up tp $155, according to the restaurant's website.
Here's what Obama has on tap in Chicago tomorrow, according to the White House:
1:32 PM, Jul 14, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
One of the Democratic party’s most loyal and powerful interest groups is, evidently, falling out of love with the Obama administration. As Peter Sullivan of The Hill reports:
11:34 AM, May 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel might be in trouble. If a recent poll is to be believed, Rahm might have trouble getting reelected.
"Only one in five Chicago voters credit Mayor Rahm Emanuel with doing a better job of running the city than Richard M. Daley did, and only 29 percent would support him if the mayoral election were held today," the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
8:02 AM, May 7, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Kristen McQueary, a member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board, has a devastating piece in her paper on Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. In short, the mayor--the former congressman and former chief of staff to President Obama--hasn't lived up to the bluster.
Nov 11, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 09 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Believers in limited government and privatization lost one of their unsung heroes with the death of distinguished economist Ed Clarke on October 10. Clarke conceived of an idea he called revealed demand, a notion that helped make the case for having the market allocate goods and services formerly thought to be the sole province of governments.
Jean Bethke Elshtain, 1941-2013 Aug 26, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 47 • By JOSEPH BOTTUM
Jean Bethke Elshtain may have been the busiest woman many of us had ever met. Shuttling back and forth between her regular teaching appointment at the University of Chicago and her settled home in Tennessee, she wrote and wrote—and wrote and wrote. Essays, talks, books, memos to fellow directors on the almost endless number of boards on which she served. Letters, emailed comments about her friends’ latest work, notes on current theological and political issues: a ceaseless flow of words.
2:31 PM, Jul 15, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
First Lady Michelle Obama and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel are teaming up to work on "youth empowerment," the White House announced today. They'll join together later this week in Chicago for an event on the issue.