The American media is absolutely turgid with emotion over White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's ambitious plan to become mayor of Chicago once Mayor Richard Daley leaves office.
Just imagine, Emanuel on the fifth floor of City Hall, lording over his lands as King Shortshanks II, though I would be tempted to call him The Rahmfather.But not everyone is thrilled.
"What are you, some kind of chumbolone? You actually believe what Rahm's saying?" asked the eminent political theorist, Louie the Barber. "Rahm's just a boogeyman to help Daley get re-elected, get it?"
Louie isn't really a barber. He isn't even named Louie. But he's spent his life in the Chicago Way and I've given him anonymity, so he'll stop worrying about ending up in the trunk of a stolen car at O'Hare.
"Don't tell me you believe Rahm," Louie said.
But Louie, didn't you see the Charlie Rose program the other night? Rahm said he misses talking to the people, and he's thought about being mayor for years. So why not take him at his word?
"Get aholda yerself," Louie said. "If we weren't on the phone, I'd give you such a crack. Are you stupid or what?"
I didn't make a peep as Louie explained
"It's just a plan to scare the voters," Louie said. "Everybody in politics hates Rahm. Even Rahm hates Rahm. Can't you see what this is?"
"Daley needs a boogeyman," Louie said. "And not just one. He needs about five boogeymen. So when voters look at Rahm and the others and then at Daley, they'll say 'Hey, wait a minute, Daley's not so bad after all.' Get it?"
Rahm might be tough and smart enough to run Chicago, just as long as he doesn't show up for political meetings in a sauna without his towel.
Among Rahm's many qualifications is that he can raise political cash. His super-agent brother Ari Emanuel can handle that. Also, Rahm speaks the most important language of diplomacy in Chicago:
As in state Sen. James DeLeo, D-How You Doin'? Fluency in DeLeo will allow Rahm to maintain cozy relations with Rosemont, Melrose Park, Elmwood Park and other towns within the DeLeo realm.
Louie the Barber says that soon other fringe candidates will join in, such as famed "urban translator" Wallace "Gator" Bradley, the former mouthpiece of imprisoned Gangster Disciple King Larry Hoover.
Perpetually angry U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez might run. Minister Louis Farrakhan might publicly endorse a candidate. The Outlaws, the white motorcycle gang, might have a guy, and the Latin Kings, understand?
That's when, according to Louie, a terrified group of civic leaders from the business and journalism communities will gather at City Hall. They'll drop to their knees and begin to shriek:
"Please, Mayor Daley. Run! We need you to rule us with your strong wrought-iron fist. Oh, please, be our King Shortshanks forever, our liege lord, for ages and ages. Oh, and may we kiss the hem of your garment?"
Daley will order them to stop groveling. He'll say he really doesn't want to run again, but, OK, just one more time, and only because he loves Chicago and its people.
"Then he'll win, and that's the Chicago Way," Louie said.
Well, that's just one theory.
Another is that Daley might not run again and Emanuel is marking the territory, being the first to cast himself as a worthy successor while making all the others seethe with jealousy because they didn't think of it first.
Another is that the mayor is quite tired, and Mrs. Daley is quite ill, and it's time to call it quits. But he loves the job.
And if he weren't the boss of Chicago, he'd have to leave town. Without his terrifying power, all the people he's stepped on and squashed over the decades would line up to give him a swift kick in the tender short shanks.
What is clear is that for the first time in more than two decades, Daley is visibly weakening. Otherwise, Emanuel wouldn't dare broach the subject. Daley's time is coming to an end, either this term or the next.
He won his last election by a landslide. But only a small percentage of eligible voters actually voted. And that was before all the new problems.
Shortshanks' parking meter rate-hike fiasco won't go away. His son and nephew had a hidden multimillion-dollar stake in a city sewer contract, and the mayor said nobody told him.
He also didn't know about his nephew getting $68 million in city pension funds to invest. When he was at the height of his power, Chicago eagerly forgave him for not knowing basic details, and a few in the media made excuses. But those days are over. Nobody buys his Fedzheimer's act anymore.
The economy is in the toilet. He's spent all the money on deals, and the city government is broke. His friends are rich, but the city workers hate him and the taxpayers are angry. He'll need to pick a fight, so look for him to provoke a strike by the Teamsters union as he moves toward re-election.
Voters will need someone to fear even more than Daley himself.
Like The Rahmfather, the new boogeyman of Chicago politics.
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