Tuesday, December 7, 2010

People playing hardball with Emanuel should remember he’ll fight back in style

I’m curious to see how many of the people who are behind the challenges to Rahm Emanuel having a place on the ballot for the Feb. 22 election for mayor and other municipal offices realize how vengeful the man can be in the pursuit of politics.
EMANUEL: Battle begins next week

Because I get the feeling many of the people who filed electoral challenges against Emanuel and who are engaging in other acts are just a bit clueless – as though they expect Rahm to be a political piñata whom they can smack about at will.

WILL A LOT of these challenges wither away once the people realize that politics is a matter of “give” and “take?”

That was my initial thought when I learned that Rob Halpin officially dropped out of the mayoral campaign. Halpin, of course, is the man who is refusing to leave the house he is renting from Emanuel – thereby creating the technical difficulties that conservative partisans are hoping to exploit to knock Emanuel off the mayoral ballot.

Halpin is also the guy whose campaign relied upon nominating petition signatures from people who claim their names were used without their permission.

So Halpin, the guy who has been taking his share of shots at Emanuel, on Monday dropped out because he sees “the realities of entering the race at this relatively late stage,” now realizes this isn’t a game – except to the degree that all electoral politics is a game, albeit one with serious consequences.

I WON’T BE surprised if many of the 21 challenges to Emanuel’s own nominating petitions wind up withering away, particularly once hearings by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners into the merits resume in coming days.

Then again, all it will take is for one of those challenges to be found to be legitimate for Emanuel to lose the electoral high ground. By that, I mean that while I realize this issue ultimately will be settled by an appeals court (if not the Supreme Court of Illinois), Rahm is better off if the city elections officials decide to keep him on the ballot.

Then, it becomes a matter of the people challenging his ballot spot having to fight to kick him off, rather than Emanuel fighting to be restored.

Now I won’t be surprised if the people who support this talk send me e-mail messages containing lots of legalese and other rhetoric giving me reasons why they don’t think Emanuel qualifies to be a candidate for city government office in this particular election cycle. There may even be a couple of them who are seriously deluded enough to believe what they tell me.

BUT THIS VERY fight is about partisan politics. If anything, it is national politics trying to intercede its way into our local election.

That was the conclusion I came to when I learned that one of the people officially challenging Emanuel (the one who retained high-profile election law expert Burt Odelson) is one of the attorneys who helped to fight city government laws that banned city residents from legally owning firearms within the city limits.

They won that one, although the partisan critics who count the National Rifle Association among their allies claim the city’s new ordinances related to firearms licensing make it next to impossible for people to get one – only about 1,200 (out of nearly 2.9 million people) have one.

Which means I’m sure they view dumping on Rahm as being part of their continuing fight against urban politics – which they want to think of as wrongly overpowering their more conservative ideological measures meant to place the rural United States in a significant position.

IF ANYTHING, THE rants against Rahm sound way too much like the rhetoric we heard back in 2002 when Emanuel ran for Congress against Nancy Kaszak. Only now, instead of just coming from the Northwest Side, it is a citywide rant.

The people who hated Emanuel because he was a significant part of the Bill Clinton administration wanted him to wither away into obscurity. Getting elected to Congress, then being picked as chief of staff under President Barack Obama, was the exact opposite of what they desired.

So now, they’re trying again to send him to retirement for partisan reasons. How else to explain the New York Post, which recently reported on White House aides taking bets on how long it will be until Emanuel’s temper goes (for lack of a better word) “kablooey.”

The Post also told us in their story how Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett (who previously had stints in the Chicago mayor’s office under both Harold Washington and Richard M. Daley) in particular didn’t like working with Emanuel in the White House, and isn’t anxious to see him become mayor.

IT’S THE PETTY gossip and details, being put forth by people who are willing to see the city’s election cycle reduced to a circus. It’s not like they have serious candidates (none of the half-dozen serious mayoral hopefuls are Republican) to campaign for.

It’s not quite enough to make me say I’m voting for Emanuel because of the old cliché, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” But it is a factor we ought to keep in mind when trying to figure out who we should cast our votes for come Feb. 22 and (in all likelihood) April 5.


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