Laquan McDonald protest when Rahm Emanuel was mayor
Even after years of protests and activism, Mayor Rahm keeps getting let off the hook. Credit: Bob Simpson / Flickr

Having watched almost three excruciating hours of Mayor Rahm’s testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations about whether he should be confirmed as ambassador to Japan, I have concluded that . . .

I deserve a raise!

Seriously, folks, they don’t pay enough to sit through such dreck. Last week’s Senate hearing was a cover-up of a cover-up in which Mayor Rahm—abetted by Dems and Republicans—got away with murder. Metaphorically speaking.

Watching Rahm testify was like watching a really bad actor pretend he was Abraham Lincoln, up late at night with insomnia, as he wrestled with agonizing demons. As opposed to a political schemer trying to save his hide.

The real howler came when Mayor Rahm explained why he had fought so hard against releasing the police video of Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times. “The last person you want to make a unilateral decision about the release of the video while [authorities] are investigating, is a politician. It should be made by professionals. The moment a politician unilaterally makes a decision in the middle of an investigation, you’ve politicized that investigation.”

C’mon, Chicago—if there’s one thing about Mayor Rahm we can all agree on, it’s this . . .

He’s a political creature whose every maneuver is a political move intended to advance his political career. So the notion that he concealed the video because he didn’t want to politicize the investigation is preposterous.

In fact, his great contribution to political discourse—the quote for which he will always be remembered—is the utterly cynical one he came up with about not letting “a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”

You knew this when you elected him, people. In fact, that’s precisely why many of you voted for him.

As such we can all agree that Rahm probably concealed that tape of Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald for the most political of reasons—he thought its release would keep him from winning reelection. One more time . . .

Van Dyke shot McDonald on October 20, 2014. The first round of the mayoral election was in February 2015.

Originally, the official police version was that the cops had to shoot McDonald as he was lunging at them with a knife.

But the video showed he wasn’t lunging. It showed that he was pretty much surrounded by police. And that Van Dyke drove up to the scene—after the other police had done the difficult work of surrounding McDonald—and fired away.

The video exposed the original police version as a lie. But if Mayor Rahm released the video and demanded that Van Dyke be prosecuted, the cops would be mad at him. And if he released the video and did nothing about it, presumably Black voters (and a handful of white lefties) would be mad at him.

One way or another, someone would be upset. Hence, he buried the video.

We might not have known the video existed if not for articles by Jamie Kalven, an investigative journalist.

And Kalven might not have known about the video had an unnamed whistleblower not told him about it.

And we still might not have seen the video had Brandon Smith, another freelance journalist, not sued to force the city to release it.

And Smith might not have won his case had Matthew Topic, his attorney, not been so good at beating the city in Freedom of Information Act cases.

And Topic might not have been so good at FOIA cases had the city (especially under Mayor Rahm) not been so resistant to release stuff they never should have concealed in the first place.

And even with all that, the video would not have been released had Cook County judge Franklin Valderrama not ruled in Smith’s favor.

Mayor Rahm was fighting to keep it a secret on the grounds that its release would impede an ongoing police investigation.

But Valderrama ruled that there was no ongoing investigation into the shooting that he could see. Certainly not by the police department. So there was no reason to keep the tape a secret.

On November 24, 2015—over a year after McDonald was shot—Mayor Rahm finally released the video he’d fought so hard to conceal. And state’s attorney Anita Alvarez filed murder charges against Van Dyke, as protestors took to the streets.

Funny how criminal justice in Chicago can really speed up when necessary. Let me now quote Jamie Kalven from an article he wrote for Slate in February of 2015.

“This is a familiar Chicago story: A black American is shot by a Chicago police officer. A police source says the shooting was justified. [The city] announces it is investigating. Then silence. After a year or two, [the city] issues a report confirming that the shooting was indeed justified.”

I was hoping the U.S. Senate would hold a real hearing on the matter. Bring on Jamie Kalven, Brandon Smith, and maybe even Garry “Big Mac” McCarthy, the former police chief Rahm threw under the bus in his attempt to blame the cover-up on someone other than himself. But . . .

Republican senators didn’t press for a tough investigation because, at the moment, their view is police never do anything wrong. Unless officers are trying to keep MAGA insurrectionists from storming the capital and lynching Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi. Then it’s . . . police brutality!

And Dems didn’t press the issue because they sort of want the whole police accountability thing to go away—at least until after next year’s midterm elections.

And Mayor Rahm did his bad-acting rendition of a great leader struggling with agonizing decisions as he repeated his falsehood about not releasing the video so as not to impede a criminal investigation that didn’t actually exist. As Judge Valderrama ruled six years ago.

And the senators fell for it. Senator Tim Kaine—Democrat from Virginia—went so far as to feel sorry for Rahm, saying, “Everyday in cities, beautiful things happen and tragic things happen.”

As though Rahm had nothing to do with this tragedy.

It looks like the Senate will confirm Emanuel’s appointment as ambassador. Well played, Mayor Rahm. You did not waste a serious crisis. You used it to rewrite history. And, in the process, set a new standard for criminal justice in Chicago. Burying evidence of murder is legal—at least for Mayor Rahm.