Rahm Emanuel during his interview with Politico Credit: Politico

A federal investigation of the Chicago Police Department “in my view would be misguided,” Mayor Emanuel asserted Tuesday in an interview with Politico Illinois.

But yesterday morning, his office released a statement on the matter. “I want to clarify my comments,” the mayor said. “I want to be clear that the city welcomes engagement by the Department of Justice when it comes to looking at the systemic issues embedded in CPD.”

That’s an interesting clarification. The mayor was clarifying that by “misguided,” he’d meant a federal investigation was a fine idea.

Also, saying he “welcomes engagement” by the DOJ isn’t quite saying he wants it. That’s a clarification that needs clarifying.

Politicians prefer making clarifications to acknowledging complete flip-flops. George H.W. Bush won the 1988 presidency in part because of his famous pledge, “Read my lips: no new taxes.” Less than two years after he was elected, he clarified that no new taxes meant “except for tax revenue increases.” When Bill Clinton faced allegations that he’d had an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, he set the record straight: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” He later clarified, in effect, “Except for the blow job.”

Emanuel didn’t want to admit that he was bowing to political pressure with his revised stance on a federal probe of CPD; that would betray weakness. In a similar vein, the mayor could claim he stayed consistent on police superintendent​ Garry​ McCarthy​. Last week, he fully support​ed McCarthy​; this week, he clarified that he fully supported McCarthy’s resignation.

Near the end of the Politico interview Tuesday, the mayor got hot when Mike Allen, Politico’s chief White House correspondent, asked him about his coming family vacation in Cuba. Emanuel said that was family business, and he didn’t appreciate Allen revealing something he’d told him privately. This spat sent Twitter into a tizzy (“Rahm Emanuel just lost it on Politico’s Mike Allen, and boy was it awkward“), which unfortunately diverted attention from a fascinating comment the mayor made earlier in the interview.

Referring to the video of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, Allen asked Emanuel: “Why didn’t you go public with your outrage during the mayoral campaign?” (Emanuel maintains he didn’t watch the tape before a court ordered its release, but he has acknowledged he was briefed on its contents.)

“Well, first of all, nobody asked me about it,” Emanuel responded.

Ah. If only reporters covering the campaign had asked the mayor if he knew of any tapes showing a police officer executing a 17-year-old, Emanuel might have said that, yes, as a matter of fact, he did know of one—and he was outraged by it. But—they never asked!

That clears that up.