Thursday, June 23, 2011

Chicago gets shot at foreign diplomacy

We didn’t get the Olympic Games. But we likely will get NATO and the G-8.
The Rahm-bo who turned Congress Democrat ...

President Barack Obama let it be known this week that both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Group of Eight nations will be having meetings simultaneously next spring, and that the site of both meetings with be our very own sweet home, Chicago.

NOW I KNOW some people are going to yawn. A few are going to start into some rant about crime running rampant in our city, creating the chance for international embarrassment for Chicago’s public image.

There will even be a nit-picker who will complain about my mental association of the Olympic games with the G-8.

Yet so much of the rhetoric I read and heard Wednesday about having these two international gatherings held in Chicago sounded so much like all the talk we heard in past years when the city was trying to become the host of the 2016 Olympic summer games.

Changing the mayoral name of who is spewing such talk from “Daley” to “Emanuel” is about the only significant difference between the two.

SERIOUSLY, MAYOR RAHM Emanuel talked of how he wanted business interests in Chicago to help pick up some of the costs of staging the two international political meetings here. All about how doing something significant to the world in Chicago would help those businesses based here by erasing the images of crime that critics of these two events want to dwell on.
... will now get businesses to back these gatherings

“I’ll be working on raising the private resources necessary to supplement what we (city government) have to do,” Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune. “While there will no doubt be security needs, this is also an opportunity for the city that is unprecedented from an economic standpoint, a job creation standpoint.”

It sounds to me like Emanuel will be using those same strong-arm organizing and fund-raising skills that he used to turn the House of Representatives to a Democratic majority in ’06 and to help get Obama elected as president in ’08 on the business community – which had better cough up the dough if they ever want to have sympathetic relations with city government in the future.

Now to me, having these gatherings in Chicago makes as much sense as anywhere else one might consider staging them. We are a city with an incredibly intense ethnic character. One can find  just about any ethnicity here.

WE ARE AN international city whether one wants to admit it or not. So why not invite the world here to talk about international issues? It will make for a more interesting discussion scene for a few days than trying to figure out why the Chicago Cubs can’t ever get their act together.

So yes, count me in among those individuals who are intrigued by the thought of a collection of world leaders converging on our city, and perhaps even wandering our streets.

People with international influence who have the power we like to think that people like Edward Burke or Michael Madigan have (they do, but on a much smaller sphere of influence). It will be interesting to see such things happening here, and perhaps creating some real world history.

We may even have people figuring out the exit strategy to Afghanistan in one of our downtown hotel conference rooms, or at McCormick Place, or wherever else they wind up figuring where to stage these events – which will take place in May of next year.

IT DEFINITELY WILL give Obama a chance to show off amongst the world leaders, giving the international aspect of his political character a boost (just like his wife and daughter meeting with former South Africa President Nelson Mandela this week achieves the same goal).
OBAMA: A profile boost?

Only these two gatherings will come during a U.S. election cycle, which will help reinforce his support among people already willing to back him. As for his critics, they’re looking for any reason to bash him.

They probably are the people going about the Internet and posting anonymous comments about world leaders getting mugged in Chicago because of inadequate policing – which allows them to take a pot shot at both Obama and Emanuel.

But looking beyond those people, this event will be of historic significance to us, because it makes Chicago only the second U.S. city to host a NATO gathering. This also becomes the first time in 34 years that one city has hosted both groups simultaneously – London last had the honors in the year of the “South Side Hit Men.”

THERE IS ONE other interesting aspect to having the leaders of the United States and Canada, along with France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United Kingdom, along with Japan, in our city for one gathering, along with the leaders of the 28 nations that belong to NATO for another.

Both groups have their detractors. Those people will protest in our city streets – even though most of them will merely view Chicago as the site of their international activism and NOT a place that they have any grudge against personally.

Which means we’re finally going to learn IF we have put the demons of 1968 behind us and figured out rational ways to handle thousands of activist types without letting the disagreement devolve into a police riot.


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