In the last few days, I’ve heard a lot of people say there’s no way Mayor Emanuel would have defeated Jesus “Chuy” Garcia had voters been able to see the video of police officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
In fact, I just read John Kass and Garcia articulate this view in a recent Tribune column.
With all due respect, I don’t buy it.
For one thing, it assumes a higher estimation than I have of the independence of Chicago voters.
This is something I know a little about—as I’m the guy who unsuccessfully begged and pleaded for voters to oust Rahm and Mayor Daley, for that matter.
What can I say? Chicago just loves its bosses.
The other thing is that this speculation misses the point about why Mayor Rahm’s behavior is so outrageous.
Let’s briefly consider the time line. (And, by the way, if you want to read one of the best time lines of the case, check out Curtis Black’s article in the Chicago Reporter.)
Van Dyke shot McDonald on October 20, 2014—almost six months before the general election.
By February, word had already emerged about the tape of the shooting.
As impossible as this sounds, just imagine Mayor Emanuel had released the video in, say, November—without being forced to by a lawsuit.
Cook County state’s attorney Anita Alvarez probably would’ve quickly responded with an indictment—just like she did earlier this week, when the tape actually was released.
I mean, it’s really hard to look at that tape and not call for an indictment.
If the mayor had done that, he wouldn’t be the villain in this sordid story. He’d be the hero. Or at least the guy who finally, for once in his life, did the right thing.
My God, he no doubt would have made hay out of the incident in campaign commercials too, which would have made him out to be the most fearless public servant since Gary Cooper in High Noon.
But of course, he didn’t do the right thing. He buried the video. He allowed officials to mislead the public.
He hid the tapes because most likely he—like Kass and Garcia—assumed it would hurt his reelection campaign.
Thus he not only did the immoral thing, he did the politically stupid thing.
As hard as it is to believe, sometimes the right thing is also the smart thing to do.
It reminds me of Mayor Emanuel’s behavior in the Barbara Byrd-Bennett scandal. In that case, he gave the Board of Education a green light to approve a shady $20.5 million no-bid contract to a company that once employed Byrd-Bennett because he didn’t want to risk losing her as the public face of his school closings.
Or like when it took eight years to prosecute Mayor Daley’s nephew, R.J. Vanecko, for killing David Koschman.
More often than not Mayor Rahm’s just a little too smart or slick for his own good.
In regard to the McDonald tape, he could have been a hero. Instead, he’s a bum.
He could have given Chicagoans a reason to finally have a little faith in the integrity of their criminal justice system. Instead it looks like more of the same old corrupt shit, where the guys with the clout go unpunished.