The governor sent the mayor some “dead fish.” Credit: Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

When considering the curious rift that’s supposedly developed between our governor and mayor, it’s important to remember that they’re actually pals. They’ve vacationed together, drunk really expensive bottles of wine together . . . one even helped the other make his first million.

I believe it was Governor Rauner who helped Mayor Emanuel become a millionaire, though sometimes I have trouble telling one from the other.

This was back in 2001, when Rauner hired Rahm to help put together a deal in which Rauner’s private equity company bought burglar alarm maker SecurityLink from telecom giant SBC Communications for about $500 million. Only to turn right around sell it for about $1 billion.

A $500 million profit will buy you a whole lot of expensive wine.

By the way, while we’re on the subject, the president of SBC at the time was William Daley, brother of Mayor Daley.

Apparently, when it comes to making money, Rauner has no trouble with Democrats.

That wheeling and dealing took place during Mayor Rahm’s three-year stint between governmental gigs, when he became, of all things, an investment banker.

I often wonder what his worldview would have been like had he spent those three years as a public school teacher, a nurse, or any occupation dedicated to serving society as opposed to preying on it.

In any event, Rahm and Rauner are supposedly at odds these days, as evidenced by the bizarre spectacle the governor staged Friday at the Paulina Street Meat Market, located about a mile from the mayor’s north-side home.

The governor’s ostensible purpose was to talk about the need for less governmental red tape in regulating the distribution of liquor licenses—not exactly a burning issue of the day.

But of course his real purpose was to gather the press corps so that they could watch him hold up some “dead fish”—in this case, a pack of pricey tuna steaks —and blast the mayor over his property tax hike, calling him “just another tax-and-spend politician who wants to blame someone else for their failures.”

Rauner said he was sending the tuna to the mayor—a lame attempt to make fun of the fact that years ago Rahm sent a dead fish to a pollster he was mad at. This was itself a lame rip-off of that great scene in The Godfather where Michael Corleone receives a dead fish wrapped in newspaper—a message that his associate Luca Brasi now “sleeps with the fishes.”

The mayor fired back, telling reporters: “I would just say this to the governor and the governor’s office. You’re 120 days behind budget, $6 billion and counting in not paying bills. Stop name-calling and just do your job.”

Over the last few days, I’ve been surveying reporters, elected officials, lobbyists, and other politicos to see if any of them believe this feud is for real. Here are a few choice responses that summarize the overall response:

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

“No way.”

And my personal favorite: “They’re both full of shit.”

To get a sense of what’s really going on, let’s take a look at the bigger picture.

As you know, Rauner’s in a fight to the finish with state Democrats—most notably house speaker Michael Madigan.

To boil it down, Rauner says he won’t approve a budget unless Madigan agrees to end collective bargaining rights for many union workers.

Without a budget, there’s less money to make good on the state’s obligations to hundreds of not-for-profit social service providers, such as day care centers and Alzheimer caregivers, etc.

So effectively Rauner is holding our weakest, most vulnerable citizens hostage. Telling them—or at least their social service providers—that if you want your money, you’ve got to join my antiunion crusade.

In doing so, Rauner’s playing to his downstate Republican base, which loves to watch Chicago Democrats get bashed. Hell, I love bashing Chicago Democrats, and I am one.

Also, he needs to beat up on the mayor to make it seem as though there’s a point to his lunacy other than destroying unions.

The mayor has been largely uninvolved in this fight, watching from the sidelines as though it were taking place in another state. The only time he offers an opinion is when he points out how dysfunctional the state is in contrast to Chicago, where he gets to do whatever he wants, even if it means farming out a $20.5 million no-bid principal consulting contract to a company that also employs the schools CEO.

There’s got to be happy medium between what we have in Chicago and Springfield—don’t you think?

Perversely, it helps Rahm to have Rauner pound him. Why? Because he wants Chicagoans to blame someone else when the schools go broke.

At the moment, the mayor needs about $480 million in state aid to balance the CPS budget.

Rauner’s already told the mayor he’s not going to get that money. But that hasn’t stopped Emanuel and schools CEO Forrest Claypool from ginning up parents, principals, teachers, and kids to join their movement to win more aid from the state.

When or if the big school cuts come, look for the mayor to blame Springfield.

In short, it helps Rauner and Rahm to bash each other.

In reality, I wouldn’t be surprised if they shared those tuna patties for dinner—along with some expensive bottles of wine.

Of course, this stunt only works if voters—in Chicago and downstate—aren’t too bright.

And here I must quote President Nixon, who could teach Rahm and Rauner a thing or two about manipulating the public: “The American people are suckers.”

Substitute “Illinois voters” for “American people” and truer words were never spoken.