I suppose it’s only appropriate that President Biden announced Mayor Rahm’s nomination as ambassador to Japan at roughly the same time as the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.
The war in Afghanistan, like Rahm’s reign as mayor, has come to symbolize the deceit and treachery of leaders who claim they’re looking out for us when, in fact, they’re looking out for number one.
I realize the masters of war in Afghanistan (and Iraq)—from Presidents Bush to Obama to Trump—are far more destructive than Mayor Rahm.
Still, there are parallels between the presidents who took us to (and then kept us in) Afghanistan and the man who just may be the worst mayor Chicago ever had.
With Afghanistan, our leaders—especially Bush—exploited, manipulated, and ultimately betrayed the patriotism, fear, and hunger for vengeance of ordinary Americans in the wake of 9/11.
Similarly, Mayor Rahm exploited, manipulated, and ultimately betrayed the allegiance, love, and loyalty many Black Chicagoans have for Barack Obama.
The fact that media outlets routinely broadcast the views of generals who led us into war while Biden feels a weird compulsion to nominate Rahm for anything demonstrates that: 1) our leaders almost never learn from past mistakes; and 2) the rich and powerful almost never get punished for their bad deeds.
Even if it means possibly burying evidence of murder. But I’ll get to the Laquan McDonald shooting in a bit . . .
As senators consider whether to approve Mayor Rahm’s nomination, please consider this information from your humble correspondent in Chicago, who watched in shock and awe as Rahm set new standards for shameless self-promotion.
Everything about Rahm’s reign as our mayor was cloaked in deceit—starting with his elevation to the position.
He announced his candidacy at roughly the same time President Obama was looking for a way to kick him out of the White House, where he’d been chief of staff, apparently because Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett couldn’t stand him.
President Obama staged a goodbye ceremony for Rahm in which he pretended he was doing us a favor by sending him to Chicago. As opposed to dumping his problems on Chicago—a city Rahm knew next to nothing about.
In the 2011 mayoral election, Rahm won without a runoff, winning close to 60 percent of the vote in Black wards. Thanks to Obama’s all-but-official endorsement.
Once in office, Mayor Rahm displayed his utter contempt for those same Black voters by closing schools and mental health clinics in high-crime areas and taking TIF money intended to help the poor and spending it on the rich.
That includes a $55 million payout to build a basketball arena in the South Loop. Only the money wound up being spent on Navy Pier. How that’s legal I’ll never know.
He probably would not have been reelected in 2015, but . . .
Cook County president Toni Preckwinkle chickened out of running against him, even though she was ahead in the polls.
Karen Lewis had the guts to run against him. But ultimately, she couldn’t because she got cancer.
Rahm wound up being forced into a runoff against Jesús “Chuy” García—then a virtual unknown. He may have lost that race except white north-side liberals lined up like lemmings. And then Black voters fell in line partly because of all those commercials Obama did on Rahm’s behalf.
And Mayor Rahm’s final payback to Chicago’s Black voters? He buried the recording of Laquan McDonald’s murder.
Originally, the official police account of that 2014 shooting was that McDonald was advancing on police officer Jason Van Dyke with a knife, so Van Dyke had no choice but to shoot him.
In reality, McDonald was walking away. As the tape revealed.
Mayor Rahm claims he never saw the tape. But I doubt many Chicagoans believe him. Just as hardly anyone believed him when he said he was concealing the tape because he was waiting for state’s attorney Anita Alvarez to finish her investigation.
I think most of us can agree that Rahm was concealing that tape because he worried it would undercut his chances for reelection.
In the end, we only know what was on the tape because an activist and an independent journalist filed a lawsuit against the Emanuel administration, demanding that the mayor release it. And Cook County judge Franklin Valderrama ruled in their favor.
Mayor Rahm and Alvarez would probably still be investigating that shooting had Valderrama ruled the other way.
Having been forced to release the tape, Mayor Rahm fired his police chief, Garry “Big Mac” McCarthy, in an effort to find someone, anyone, to take the blame.
My guess is that Mayor Rahm didn’t run for reelection because his internal polls showed that he might not win—no matter how many commercials Obama ran on his behalf.
In the aftermath, Rahm just may be the most despised Dem in the country. And now he wants to resurrect his tarnished reputation—and maybe make some key business contacts for future deals—by being named ambassador to Japan, a country he probably knows even less about than he knew about Chicago when he became our mayor.
I’ve got conflicting thoughts about this news.
On the one hand, sending him to Japan will get him far away from Chicago. On the other hand—wouldn’t it be nice if once, just once, a powerful Chicagoan were held accountable for his actions?
Here’s hoping that senators—Dems and MAGA—put Mayor Rahm through the wringer in his nomination hearing.
I doubt any of them gives a damn about the schools and clinics he closed, much less the South Loop TIF money he spent on Navy Pier.
But if nothing else, they can get him under oath and ask him what he knew and when he knew it about the shooting of Laquan McDonald. Maybe then, he might tell the truth.