September 5, 2012
In what someday may be considered a stroke of absolute genius, President Barack Obama has decided to send Mayor Rahm Emanuel back home to watch TV in Chicago.
Emanuel was prepared to spend days at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., and attendees could have been amazed at the juju of the Rahmfather, the former White House chief of staff who is now mayor of the president's political hometown.
But all that's changed.
Now it looks like the Rahmfather will be passing out chips and dip to young staffers at Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago on Thursday night. I sure hope the chips are crunchy and Rahm has the foresight to offer that delicacy much beloved by South Siders, Mrs. Grass onion soup dip.
Please, sir, a young Obama staffer might ask the Rahmfather, may I have another?
"Slight change of plans," Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton wrote in an email to the Sun-Times, explaining that the Obama campaign had asked him to host a watch party at the Chicago headquarters when the president gives his acceptance speech.
Later, Hamilton said Chicago's homicide rate and the impending Chicago Teachers Union strike had nothing to do with the mayor curtailing his trip.
It's nice that Rahm is coming back to hang with the young staffers, although the idea of the Rahmfather spending quality time with true believers smelling faintly of Hopium is hard to take. Yeah, I know. You don't believe it either, do you?
Obama is clearly on the defensive at his convention. Every day there is more bad news, like Tuesday's dismal poll results in The Hill showing 54 percent of Americans don't think Obama deserves re-election based on his job performance. Then there's the news that a record number of Americans are now on food stamps.
So the last thing the president needs is for Emanuel to be dogged by convention reporters who might ask him about bothersome topics in Obama's Chicago. Like that 31 percent increase in the Chicago homicide rate compared with last year, stemming from out-of-control gang wars, with Chicago police manpower absurdly low. And that looming CTU strike of the public schools, a system that for decades hasn't done much for low-income black and Latino kids, but has done absolute wonders for organization Democrats who perpetuate the broken system to feed their politics.
Public discussion of homicide and school strikes won't help Democrats find their happy place in Charlotte. So after the Rahmfather's speech Tuesday and a party in Charlotte on Wednesday, he plans to return to Chicago to watch the president on TV.
Some might attribute the abrupt return to dysfunction in the City by the Lake. But the fact is that Chicago has been dysfunctional for years now, with the previous mayor having spent the city into insolvency. When Emanuel finally got near the mayoral chair, the music stopped. Though the Rahmfather has been burdened by the bad choices of others, he's actually trying to fix things. Yet he's defined by the blood in the streets and the teachers about to walk. That's politics, and he knows it.
In his own convention speech Tuesday night, the Rahmfather didn't go near the nasty local topics. Instead, the Rahmfather talked cheerfully of working for Obama in the White House, with the economy imploding, millions out of work, wars raging.
"You remember the uncertainty and fear that seized the country," Emanuel said in his speech.
"On that first day, I said, 'Mr. President, which crisis do you want to tackle first?' He looked at me, with that look he usually reserved just for his chief of staff — 'Rahm, we were sent here to tackle all of them, not choose between them.'
"There was no blueprint or how-to manual for fixing a global financial meltdown, an auto crisis, two wars and a Great Recession, all at the same time. Believe me, if it existed, I would have found it."
And every few paragraphs, there was this repeating line: That was the change we believed in, that was the change we fought for, that was the change President Obama delivered.
Who wrote this childlike stuff? It sounds more like the perpetually cheery Kenneth character on "30 Rock" than the realistic and ruthless mayor of Chicago. And that's scary, thinking of Kenneth as White House chief of staff. No wonder Vladimir Putin became so bold.
And that scene with Obama saying of the issues confronting them, "Rahm, we were sent here to tackle all of them, not choose between them."
Do presidents really flip their lids and start babbling when they get elected? If they do, then we all should be afraid, very afraid. If Obama truly talks this way, it's probably best the Rahmfather get back here as soon as he can, to deal with crime and school strikes.
I have no how-to manual for hosting energetic campaign staff, so I offer this to the mayor: Make sure you get good chips. Make sure the beer is cold. And please, please, don't talk like Kenneth from "30 Rock."
Rahm, you'll give those interns nightmares.
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