Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Would Rahm be so brash as to endorse Claypool over Berrios for assessor?

Did he endorse?
A part of me wonders if what we’re talking about is some sort of nuance being ignored – potential mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel says he hasn’t endorsed anybody for Cook County assessor, despite the claims of some that they heard him come out and back the bid of Forrest Claypool, a long-time Democrat who is challenging the Democratic nominee, Joe Berrios, in this year’s election.

I’m sure that in Emanuel’s mind, any comments he made at a fundraising event held last week at the Excalibur nightclub were so innocuous as to mean little. They may have been so inoccuous that even one reporter-type who was present didn't bother to acknowledge them.

YET CRAIN’S CHICAGO Business is reporting that people who were at the event construed Emanuel’s comments (he supposedly said, “I want you to support Forrest Claypool”) as an endorsement in next week’s elections for (among other posts) Cook County government offices.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of the people who were there (I wasn’t). But I am skeptical that Emanuel – an old political pro – would come out and make an endorsement.

The last thing he’s going to want to do is make enemies. And putting himself in the middle of what amounts to an internal struggle within the local Democratic Party at a time when he’s trying to build up city-wide support for his own mayoral aspirations in the elections to be held next February makes absolutely no sense.

So assuming that Emanuel actually said that people should “support” Claypool when they cast their ballots next Tuesday, we now have to play the political games of, “What did he mean?”

IT IS THE frustrating aspect of observing and writing about the activities of government officials and their electoral campaigns – everything gets so nuanced so that a candidate can later try to deny having meant what you think he said.

Long-time friends?
I have been through this game many times. Someone says they support someone else, but then later aides will insist that does not count as support – let alone an endorsement. I remember one time being told by an aide to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, that the speaker’s support for a particular campaign wasn’t an endorsement because, “if we really cared, we could do so much more.”

Is that what this amounts to? We get a few kind words that ultimately prove the truth of the old adage, “Talk is cheap.”

But back to Emanuel, who while he may not have meant to give a formal endorsement (I couldn’t help but notice reports that quoted Claypool as saying that he was not aware of having received Emanuel’s formal backing), it shouldn’t be a surprise that Rahm would have feelings of support for Claypool.

BECAUSE LARGELY IT was the kind of people who are now backing Claypool’s independent bid over what they want to perceive as the embarrassment of having a “political hack” like Joe Berrios holding office who were the local white people who enabled Barack Obama’s presidential campaign to rise from being merely that of the “black” candidate.

I also couldn’t help but notice that Claypool now has a radio advertisement being aired on “black”-oriented stations reminding us that Forrest was picked to “lead” Obama’s transition team back when Barack moved up from the Illinois state Senate to the U.S. Senate from Illinois.

To me, it would only make sense that someone that close to Obama would also have his ties to Emanuel, who until a couple of weeks ago was the White House chief of staff.

When one also considers that Emanuel and Claypool also have their own relationship that goes back nearly three decades, it just doesn’t seem like a stretch for me to believe that when Rahm went to an Early Voting Center to cast his own ballot for the Nov. 2 elections, his vote for Cook County assessor may well have gone to Claypool.

BUT A FORMAL endorsement at this point seems like such a counter-productive stance to take, because it would lock him in so rigidly with those people who aren’t falling for the Claypool rhetoric that he represents good government and change.

It would ensure that every single person who is backing Berrios (who could very well win next week’s elections) will wind up ganging up on any mayoral aspirations Emanuel has. It would feel fuel to the fire that is those people who want to think of Emanuel as an out-of-towner trying to portray himself as a native Chicagoan.

I could even see where, when combined with the fact that Emanuel next month will be the beneficiary of a fundraiser being organized by assorted entertainment executives (the Hollywood scene), it would be spun as a double-whammy to show how out-of-touch Rahm is with regular Chicagoans.

Personally, I don’t think that, mainly because one of the “Hollywood Big Shots” involved with this event is Rahm’s brother, Ari, a co-CEO of WME Entertainment. One brother helping another. That sentiment ought to be very Chicago-oriented.

THE BOTTOM LINE in this political affair?

I expect Emanuel probably is supportive of Claypool, similar to how the favor likely will be returned in February when Rahm runs against the masses who want to be mayor.

Which means this really is yet another example (mayoral hopeful Rickey Hendon taking pot shots at GOP governor hopeful William Brady) of the state and city election cycles blending unhealthily into each other.


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