Saturday, September 24, 2005

See Rahm Run

I cannot tell you how saddened I was to see the name of the inestimable Rep. Rahm Emanuel, congressman, multi-millionaire and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) listed in a plea bargain signed by one Gerald Weslowski, a second-rung employee of the Water Management Department. I hope it will not impede a political career which has been going swimmingly with the body greased for fast action in cutting through the waves.

To all of us who knew Rahm in his early formative years, when he was busily salving himself up for speed in Mayor Daley’s party, tossing competitors aside, his acceleration to his current lofty height has been edifying. We knew it had to do only with his wish to participate in public service as the slim former ballet dancer (decidedly un-gay) nuzzled us in friendship as he manuevered upward in the style of Sammy Glick, the anti-hero of Budd Schulberg’s classic novel, “What Makes Sammy Run?” the decidedly amoral operative who, unburdened by talent, hits the big time in Hollywood. Rahm was a tightly coiled spring of hunger and ambition in the early 1980s, working on fund-raising commission who wanted oh so desperately to become known, telling me candidly he was powerfully adept at raising what he called “Jewish money.” I replied I am neither Jewish nor moneyed but he looked at me with moist eyes and said it was true but I would do. I had been introduced to him by Mark Hornung, then editorial page editor of the Sun-Times as Hornung’s close friend. Later when Hornung needed a friend (he’s always had one in me) he was abandoned curtly by Sir Rahm—as we all were when he went to the White House and had no further use to him.

Well do I remember him from the days in which a few of us appeared on Bruce DuMont’s popular Thursday night WBEZ radio program “Inside Politics.” Rahm would call me at Quaker Oats beginning on the Monday of the week the program aired: “Can you get me on the air, Tommeee?” I would say that I would see what I could do but that Bruce made the final determination. On the few times Rahm would be a guest there would be callers on the line saying they admired him. On one notable occasion, he urged the Democratic party to become more moderate, more centrist stating with candor, “the only way I’m going to get to the White House is by wearing a tux and serving drinks.” Then suddenly he disappeared from Chicago, taking a job in Little Rock, Arkansas to work for the governor there. We knew we had seen the last of him since we didn’t have the national media exposure he desired—but it was fascinating to read about him as he twirled and danced through the chairs, moving from fund-raiser to political adviser with an office next to Stephenapoulis and then next to that of His Eminence William Jefferson Clinton’s itself.

One by one they left Clinton in the second term but Rahm stayed true, the common butt of every critic during the Lewinsky years. The entire cabinet expressed its scorn of Clinton as did Vice President Gore but Rahm stayed on message, his stomach never turning as news of the stained blue dress came out. He did TV stand ups in defense of his chief and would not allow independence of thought to get in his way. And at the end, he had made a fasts friend of Bob Rubin, the multi-millionaire treasury secretary at whose knee Rahm learned how to be an investment banker. In his very first effort lo! he showed all his critics who thought he was not a man of depth and made several millions. Then he ran for Congress in the district vacated by Rod Blagojevich where his Democratic opponent was a very resourceful woman candidate. Rahm’s loyalty to the Daley cause came into play here and he needed help in foot soldiers in that urban district.

It was touch and go with the Sun-Times’ Steve Neal describing Rahm uncharitably as so slippery that were he to lose his footing on the way up to the speaker’s rostrum he would slide to his place. Then, fortuitously, an over-age Polish Democrat described him in a way that Rahm utilized as an anti-Semitic slur. Skillfully Rahm cycled it, recycled it, won the Democratic primary and went on to the Congress. There it was quick work to re-tune his fund-raising list, land on Ways and Means and armed with a trust rolodex become chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Never let it be said that there is no gratitude in his soul for with Daley under attack, Rahm Emanuel went to the City Club of Chicago to say that his chief was too busy with governmental duties to even recognize that others had mis-used patronage to serve vile partisan ends.

Alexander the Great wept because at age 40 he had no more worlds to conquer. Not so with Rahm who became an expert on the economy. Now there is a brief blip. The plea filing of Weslowski says that regularly his colleagues in the Water Department were earning taxpayer’s salaries while handing out literature and “going door-to-door …on behalf of certain political campaigns and candidates, the selection of which was determined by cityi officials and communicated to [Donald] Tomczak [the second in command of the department].” Indeed, “once a particular campaign was communicated to Tomczak, Tomczak typuically called a meeting of the defendant and other department employees to notify them of the particular political campaign they would be supporting and to discuss the intended work plan.

“These coordinated meetings, which typically lasted approximately one hour or less occurred on city premises during the normal business day and typically involved 5 to 10 Department employees. Following the meetings, defendant was aware that Tomczak’s political coordinators, who were Department employees, contacted individual Department employees to obtain `volunteers’ for the field activities. On behalf of Tomczak, defendant participated in certain field activities with Department employees on behalf of the campaigns affiliated with Jeff Tomczak [Republican States Attorney in Will county], judicial candidate Amy Bertani, United States congressional candidate Rahm Emanuel and others.”

When asked about his great help from Daley’s Water Management Department, Rahm widened his eyes with surprise and gasped that he had had no idea of such assistance. These things elude a man so interested was he in serving the commonweal.

1 comment:

  1. Tom, we need more articles from you. WHat happened at the Suntimes? Ah, who cares, but keep up the terrific articles!