Monday, March 7, 2011

EMANUEL: Thanks O God for The Pout and Fluorescent Eddie!

     Note: This is an enlarged and updated version of my last week’s column for The Wanderer, the nation’s oldest continually published national Catholic weekly. 
       The first thing Rahm Emanuel should do once installed in his mayoral  sancta sanctorum on the 5th floor of city hall is to scoot everybody out, lock all the doors and once alone put on a tallis…aka a Jewish prayer shawl, the ancestor of our Catholic pallium…to give fervent thanks to Yahweh—the name of God that Jews don’t pronounce--who led his ancestors out of Egypt… to inspire the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. to spare Chicago and Emanuel by raising the prospect of Carol Moseley Braun for mayor.  
       As an afterthought Emanuel should murmur thanks for the Eddie Burke-stimulated residency issue which kept Rahm in the media spotlight not just here but across the country, rendering his opponents inconsequential mediocrities.
    But it was the great “I Am,” Jackson, who truly became Emanuel’s political Savior.   The fact that our supine media…terrified of any reportage that should seem racially evenhanded cannot bring themselves to pronounce The Pout as the glaring fraud he is and always has been…is a pathetic scandal of journalistic timidity and liberal white guilt.
      The Sun-Times can be shrugged off because it seeks to hype its readership by running the ghost ridden Old Fulminator’s columns for decades but The Tribune, with two exceptions, a publishing miracle --alive without guts, brains, backbone, testicles or soul--is a case apart.  
                  Jackson Leads Blacks to the “Upper Room.”
           Superannuated black racist Jackson pronounced that African Americans must elect a mayor to oppose anyone whitey might pick. With that he raised his arms upright like Moses and beckoned all black leadership to come together under his aegis, certifying onetime Cabrini Green resident ex-con (2 years for bank robbery committed  at age 17 and early-released because of his tender age) Alderman Walter Burnett  [27th] ward: West Town] be made “consensus” chairman of the parley.   They would convene in an Upper Room and come out with the logical next black mayor.
       The Holy Spirit was not needed because His role was preempted by the Rev. Jackson.   And predictably inside the Upper Room there was dissension as Cong. Danny Davis of the West Side and Rev.-State Sen. James Meeks, pastor of 50,000-member South Side’s Salem Baptist…a publicly identified pro-life advocate and anti-gay crusader…argued their cases.   Former Senator (appointed by Rod Blagojevich) Roland Burris was invited but fortuitously backed out early figuring nothing happening there was going to enlarge his carved tombstone resume, leaving another ex-senator the favorite in Jackson’ s mind.  
         Jackson favored Carol Moseley Braun because she was, after all, the first black woman U.S. senator, first black ambassador to New Zealand and for a short-time an announced presidential contender in 2008. She had walked the corridors of power both domestically and internationally, the Messiah intoned.  
      Jackson’s oracular serenade enabled Carol to say she would never-ever quit for anyone else. She argued it was time among this vast sea of men for a woman to be mayor.  They reminded her a woman had been mayor—Jane Byrne in 1978 who was so unpopular she served only one term.   Carol responded yes—but she was a white woman mayor.  Everybody looked to Jesse for comment.
      Rev. Jesse nodded sagaciously, saying yes that is true, Jane Byrne was and is white. As it was in the beginning so it will be to the end of her life—she will remain white.  So it is indeed time for a black woman mayor.
       His political sagacity was ratified as Ms. Moseley Braun came in fourth on election day Feb. 22 with a whopping 9 percent.
         After Rev. Jackson’s strong support of Moseley Braun, black male contenders…granted none very good…started to pull out. West Side Cong. Danny Davis, recipient of a Ph.D in social aggrandizement or something that sounds close to that from an Arkansas rural black college , said he had a vast number of other things to do involving congress which included the Ways and Means committee steering the nation’s economy—a frightening prospect.
     Rev-State Sen. Meeks who earlier had offered to rise above principle on social issues in order to bind together One Chicago said he would be missed at Salem Baptist’s pulpit and in the legislature and so his first priority was to serve God there.  In fact the only thing useful in the black mayor search was to witness how naked ambition deflated Meeks’ hot air balloon on the social issues, clear to all but Andy McKenna, Jr., the mega-multi-millionaire inheritor of his father’s wealth who believed his image would be immeasurably broadened by helping to fund Meeks.
       Thereupon despite a scattering of minor league candidates, there remained standing only the indomitable Ms. Moseley Braun with her perpetually luminescent smile.  Rev. Jackson declared her the consensus black candidate and all adjourned the Upper Room.  Bad omen:  Alderman Burnett who was empowered by The Pout with the role of enforcing the Moseley Braun decision among all black voters, thought it over and a few days later defected to Emanuel.
        Now as Mayor Emanuel prepares to hang up his tallis in the city hall closet for use at another time, he can reflect how helpful  Jackson was in his winning with 55.2 percent, well above the 50-plus-one benchmark he needed to avoid an April 5thrunoff…he winning 40 of the city’s 50 wards, getting more than  70 percent in the heavily populated lakefront wards, mopping up by more than 50 percent in wards with large black populations, racking up margins of at least 2 to 1 over Moseley Braun.  How in the world Victor Reyes and Mike Noonan got involved with her is a stunner: their reputations for savvy ended with her petition filing. 
     Due to Jackson, black voters gave more support to Emanuel than all of the other candidates combined—not to forget (or forgive) the grossly misleading David Axelrod TV commercial of Obama praising   Emanuel at his retirement as chief-of-staff but never officially endorsing him (more of this later).
        Emanuel’s nearest opponent with 24 percent was Gery (pronounced “Gary”) Chico, not invited to the Upstairs Room since he is white—but an entirely respectable candidate, Daley’s onetime chief of staff,   ex-president of the school board (not an impressive recommendation after Daley canned Paul Vallas for talking tough to the teachers unions) and ex-head of the park district, a multi-millionaire lawyer and backed by the city’s most powerful alderman, the immaculately white haired-coiffed Eddie Burke, Lord High Chairman of Finance.
       Chico carried the remaining 10 wards, primarily Latino-heavy on the Southwest Side where he was raised and the West Side; also the 19th and 41st both with large populations of what we Chicagoans call “police and fire” whose unions endorsed Chico, fearing (rightly) that their day of reckoning with a Mayor Emanuel is forthcoming.  
       Turnout was 41 percent, nearly 10 points lower than predicted. Chicago’s shrinking population—including tens of thousands fewer blacks—makes The Squid more dependent on the close-in suburbs where most of them…many returning to their ancestral roots in a newly warmly receptive South where right-to-work means more jobs.
      The only self-identifiable Leftist mayoral candidate, the city clerk, Puerto Rican-born Miguel del Valle came in third with 9.3 percent, his candidacy denting in only a few wards, notably  Hispanic-heavy Logan Square where he received the disappointing election results at a drinking party held appropriately at a saloon named Revolution!
      Where was the silent Mayor Daley in all this?  He never endorsed any candidate but precinct captains in his original 11thward Bridgeport base went door-to-door with flyers and palm cards instructing the faithful to vote Emanuel.
       Daley’s rejoinder after election when he was asked who he voted for emitted what was mercifully the last hurrah semi-retardate bluster that has made him a legendary slow-wit among mayors…an embarrassing device he uses to save him from explaining anything difficult-- but which reaffirms his bully boy Bridgeport-born Little Lord Fauntleroy nyyyyaaa-nyaaaa squeaks: Huh?  How did I vote? Knock-knock…knock-knock! For a generation a debate has swirled over whether he’s (a) truly dumb or (b) uses this stuff as a device.  The jury’s finally come back—it’s always been (a).
                      After Defeat, Jackson Not Available for Comment. 
     And after the Emanuel victory where was the Messiah of the Upper Room? Out-of-town, in Madison, Wisconsin holding news conferences with striking public union workers and thus incommunicado until the heat blows over in Chicago when the tame guilt-obsessed reporters will be too respectful to ask if he bore responsibility for what went wrong. 
       However after the election some of the more mature elements of the press…including Laura Washington of The Sun-Times…opined that it is time to shuck off vestiges of the `60s civil rights-era leaders in favor of younger,  more modern and moderate black strategists. (Don’t count the Tribune’s Clarence Page or Dawn Turner Trice among them as they’re hired to tell us chalkies how it feels to be black—not to challenge the old “civil rights” Establishment.)
       Laura Washington hinted broadly that Rev. Jesse may have outlived his fame. Actually his fame should never have devolved as he had  been a media fraud from the time he claimed on network TV that the blotch on his shirt was Martin Luther King’s.
       Actually on April 4, 1968 at 6:01 a.m. when the shots killed King as he stood on the second floor balcony of Memphis’ Lorraine motel, the 27-year-old insouciant Jackson was a half-block away joshing with Memphis musicians who were to play at a midmorning rally.  But Jackson recovered from the shock quickly enough to book a flight posthaste to Chicago with a hired p.r. agent in tow to appear on the NBC “Today” show to attest he wore the bloody turtle neck shirt as heir to redeem King’s dream.
        King assuredly did not die in his arms (but Ralph Abernethy’s).  Only hours before the assassination had expressed…this recorded in Taylor Branch’s magisterial 3rd volume civil rights history At Canaan’s Edge…King told a gathering in his motel room he had figured Jackson as a trimmer and opportunist and ready to ditch him soon. 
        The bloody shirt story is contained in Barbara Reynolds’ Jesse Jackson, the Unauthorized Biography. But Jackson’s theological ministerial status was also bogus.  His ordination papers are as murky as the unobtainable hard-copy version of Barack Obama’s birth certificate—always acknowledged but never actually seen.
       In fact the man viewed by many as the predominate spokesman for the black race flunked and/or dropped out of North Carolina AT&T, had a dispute about whether or not racism had to do with his not winning a football scholarship here (he saying he was deprived of a quarterback slot because of his race notwithstanding another black player was chosen for that position) and his leaving the liberal Chicago Theological seminary after only a few months.
     It is claimed he got himself named a minister by a nondescript Baptist congregation because of his civil rights demonstrations.   As there were lingering doubts about its canonical legitimacy he then received an honorary ordination at a black college. Close but still no cigar.       Finally to make things look really-really better he arranged a masters-of-divinity certificate from the compliantly liberal University of Chicago with no studies were required of him and 100% credit was given solely for his activism.
        Now if anybody were to ask, he would be forever known as “the Reverend.”
         The Jesse L. Jackson part was added earlier.
      He was born Jesse Louis Burns in Greenville, S. C., the illegitimate son of the town’s most prominent boxer, Noah Robinson who was already married, having legitimately sired Noah Robinson, Jr. His mother married one Charles Jackson fifteen years later who gave Burns his surname.  Noah Robinson, Jr. came to Chicago and worked for a time with his half-brother Jesse (where as a Quaker Oats executive I knew him slightly) to rustle up contributors to the mission…but is now inconveniently lodged in federal prison serving a lifetime sentence for arranging a murder contract on three business partners.
        Jackson’s extraordinarily creative theological illiteracies led him to invent out of whole cloth interesting variations of the gospel such as the beguiling fiction that he told a largely secularly oriented Democratic National convention in 1984  that Jesus Christ was born to a homeless family—associating Him with Jackson’s  own illegitimate birth…a marvelous invention of sacrilegious hubris.   The convention clapped and clapped, apparently ratifying Jackson’s ignorance of the Hypostatic Union of Christ’s two natures, divine and human—not that many delegates ever heard of the  Hypostatic Union. Or if they had,  might wonder how much the dues are.     
         Emanuel Hustles the Mayoralty the Old-Fashioned Way.
        Confident that Moseley Braun’s selection was a pathway to victory and easily putting down residential challenges orchestrated secretly by Alderman Burke, Rahm Emanuel got elected the old-fashioned way by earning it: putting together a first-rate team via massive contributions.  Ever since I regularly worked with him on WBEZ on Bruce DuMont’s show there every Thursday night sometimes for two hours…when he told us he was hustling contributions for Bob Creamer’s Illinois Public Action consumer network and later what he himself described as “Jewish money” for Rich Daley,  I was fascinated that there was not a lazy bone in the kid’s body (he was then 27).
        When he attended my Quaker retirement party in July, 1991 he was morose.  G. H. W. Bush was president and popular and it appeared that the calculus of the electoral college had moved irremediably against the Democrats. He said “the only way I will ever be admitted to the White House would be to take the visitors’ tour or come as a waiter in a rented tux and pour drinks.” I was stunned at his pessimism.   To this guy, getting to the White House…as an insider.. was truly an ambition!  I never saw that in anybody else just turning 30.
      We all know what happened next.  The economy soured; Bush turned unpopular but not soon enough for the Dem heavy-weights to appreciate it. Bill Clinton decided to take a whack at the job in`92 and Rahm was hired to raise money for him in Little Rock; he was pessimistic that the contest would ever work out in Clinton’s favor.
     But of course it did—and Rahm was off to the big time, as political director. There he suborned any honor he had retained by orchestrating the dirtiest most amoral back-corridor series of threats to attempt to blackmail the House from impeaching his boss who had committed a serious crime of lying under oath.  That attempt not successful, he stabbed through the drawn curtains of the Senate to prevent conviction—here and there drawing blood…which secured the desired end.  Trent Lott wavered and Alaska’s old lion Ted Stevens told the chairman of House Judiciary: “Henry, I don’t care if you give us proof that this guy [Clinton] raped a woman and shot her dead afterward, you’ll never get a conviction out of this Senate.”
       Stevens was right.   Hyde paid the price for his nobility for bringing the charge heedless of his own political needs….and this ballet-dancing Brutus wielded the knife and shrunk back to the shadows.
        When the  Clinton years ended  Brutus the Assassin skillfully used his political contacts to learn how to be a do-it-yourself investment banker….followed by board membership on Freddie Mac, the acquisition of a personal nest-egg of $16 million plus with more on the way….election to the House…appointment to Ways & Means,  and more importantly as chairman of the “D-triple-C”: the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, electoral arm for House Dems where he scored impressively, wresting a workable Democratic majority which can be largely attributable to him alone.
       He was on track to become a future House Speaker when Obama was elected….succeeding Nancy Pelosi…when Obama tapped him to be chief of staff.  He was not notably successful there but it was not his fault.  One gigantic mistake he did commit however: handing the packaging of the stimulus to Nancy Pelosi who decorated it like a multi-spending Christmas Tree.   While he counseled Obama to drop health care in favor of jobs-jobs-jobs after the Massachusetts Upset with Scott Brown, he behaved like a good soldier, running an auction bazaar for dubious senators—orchestrating the Louisiana Purchase for a foot-dragging Mary  Landrieu and the Cornhusker Buyout for a wavering Ben Nelson.
        His dissatisfaction with the politics of it all, however, soon soured him on Obama…and Obama on him—including the president’s mysterious pro-Palestinian policies on the Middle East.   And so he helped contrive with Bill Daley….who though earning $30 million as a top lobbyist was hungering for public policy visibility… a job switch that was bold and so dramatic it eluded the passive media. Notified early that Mayor Daley was seriously pondering retirement, he cut a deal with his brother Bill to quit chief-of-staff, go back and run for the office while Bill would take over the active management of the Obama reelection strategy from the insuperable post of chief of staff.
        Rahm returned home to an orgy of press speculation—thanks to Eddie Burke’s orchestration of a plan to block his filing for the post.  Burke’s legal thesis was right but the thought that one who served the city as a congressman and who was recruited to go back as presidential chief of staff could be sidelined by a finely drawn legal distinction dating from 1888 was entirely unreasonable.   Chicagoans have never cared a rat’s eyelash about legal fine print distinctions and would not begin now.  Especially since Jesse Jackson was in the wings touting a list of incompetents starting with Moseley Braun who everyone but the editorial boards understood could wreck the city more thoroughly in four years than Detroit’s Coleman Young did in twenty.
         Thanks to Burke and Jackson Emanuel saw his name elevated to marquis lights and the looming destruction lunging toward the city if Emanuel were not elected.  The Perfect Storm. To which for completion only was needed the usual spurt of phenomenal Emanuel energy.
         After getting his mega-wealthy brother Arie, Hollywood’s top actor agent to put together fundraisers in Beverly Hills and the skyscrapers of New York city and Chicago which raised $13 million, he spent big chunks of dough brilliantly.  He hired David  Axelrod to do his TV commercials.  The first problem was Obama who didn’t want to alienate anybody in Chicago…especially blacks…by endorsing Emanuel.  Axelrod brilliantly circumnavigated this by stitching the farewell speech by Obama at Rahm’s retirement party where the president didn’t endorse him into a vibrant commercial that seemed like he did.
        Proof came in the campaign when a Moseley Braun fan, black feminist JeNest Murry, took her young niece a first-time voter to the polls to cast a vote for Moseley Braun whom Murry told the kid could become the first black woman mayor.  She waited for the girl to cast her ballot and when she exited the polling booth asked how it went.
        “I voted for Rahm Emanuel” the girl said, “because that’s who President Obama wants us to vote for!”  I read this in The New York Times via the WTTW-foundation-funded News Cooperative…and continue to be fascinated about how much rich Chicago lore never gets in our papers.
      Another big wad of Emanuel money went to pay top organizers and strategists.  He decided not to rely on the old-style Squid precinct hacks but got younger, fresher, more highly educated, more entrepreneurial Loop savvy younger ones to add to the dese-dem-does old-line union hall slugs.
     Thus as mayor Emanuel is the main pilot of The Squid with his younger types moving into top political leadership positions.  He still has $2 million plus saved to campaign in runoffs for aldermanic candidates.  A plus: 30 percent of the new city council will be freshmen.
      The next council will choose its Finance chairman: to stick with Eddie Burke or go for someone new.   Like as not Luminescent Eddie will stay. And will his six-man, 24-hour taxpayer-paid police guards Rahm has promised to eliminate? They’ll stay too because Burke knows too much to allow them to disappear without squawking.
      And to reinforce that he needs them, just the other day Burke said he had received a death threat.  If perchance he would be shot---what is that historic Biblical line?  His blood will be on us!
     Meaning on Emanuel.
   So Burke’s cops likely will be sticking around.

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