On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson created quite a stir when he acknowledged he was skipping an upcoming NATO meeting of foreign ministers because he had better things to do. Like meet with Putin officials in Russia.
Immediately, the national press responded with shock that the Trump administration would be so blind to optics that it would essentially choose Russia over its closest allies at the very time the FBI and Congress are looking into allegations that Trump campaign aides colluded with Putin’s regime to steer the election away from Hillary Clinton.
Well, that’s how the national press responded. Me? I had a more local response along the lines of—Man, where was this cavalier attitude toward NATO when we really needed it?
Not to bring back horrible memories, but it was only five years ago that Mayor Rahm eagerly moved heaven and earth to bring the NATO summit to Chicago, as though it were the second coming.
Remember his rap?
He was gonna put Chicago on the map! Put us in the international spotlight so people all over the world would see our wonderful skyline and gorgeous lakefront and happy smiling faces and say, I just gotta go to Chicago!
And into Chicago they would stream from all over the world, turning our humble midwest burg into a world-class city, right up there with London, Rome, Paris, and New York.
Well, you know what happened. Protesters descended. The mayor, afraid of calamity, brought in the heavy hand of the law. Our streets filled with cops and federal agents, preparing for a mighty clash.
Instead of a worldwide celebration, we went into lockdown. On the Saturday before the summit, protesters battled with cops. The headline in England’s Daily Mail said it all: “Thousands of protesters clash with police in Chicago—chaos in the Windy City as 45 activists arrested and one copped stabbed after demonstrators target NATO.”
Yep, nothing like a little “chaos in the Windy City” to bring in the tourists.
Also, in the days leading up to the summit, the Cook County state’s attorney and the police arrested three out-of-town protesters on trumped-up charges of conspiring to commit terrorism.
The trio eventually got convicted of lesser charges largely on the testimony of a couple of undercover cops who gathered their intelligence by spying on activists protesting the mayor’s closing of mental health clinics.
Think about this, people: Rahm wanted to show off our great city to the world, so what does he do? He closes six clinics in the poorest, most vulnerable, high-crime black and Hispanic communities, where folks are in dire need of counseling because of the violence. Then he sends in undercover cops to spy on the clinic-closing protesters—as opposed to spending just a little more money to keep the clinics open. Or better yet, open new ones. And then the piece de resistance is that the testimony of the undercover cops gets three hapless hippies thrown into jail.
And Rahm thought this was going to impress the world?
In the aftermath, it turned out the city spent about $15.6 million in overtime police costs for the summit. On the good news front, that’s less than the $19 million the city spent on police overtime for last year’s Cubs playoff run.
Of course, the citizens of Chicago actually got something worth remembering from the Cubs run. I mean, even a Cubs-hating Sox fan from Bridgeport would concede a Cubs championship is better than a headline about “chaos in the Windy City.”
Most Chicagoans forgot about the NATO summit as soon as it was over and we moved on to the next glorious chapter of the early Rahm years: the eight-day teachers’ strike.
But back to the brouhaha over Tillerson. White House officials have assured us that the president will, in fact, attend the full NATO summit to be held on May 25 in Brussels.
All I can say is better there than in Chicago.