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Media Strategist William Kelly: CNN Propping Up Rahm Emanuel for 2016

Image: Media Strategist William Kelly: CNN Propping Up Rahm Emanuel for 2016

Thursday, 06 Mar 2014 02:53 PM

By William J. Kelly

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Rahm Emanuel is always up to something dead fishy.

The CNN reality TV series, “Chicagoland,” which premieres Thursday night, and stars Emanuel as a “tough, visionary mayor” is fishy.

The millions of dollars CNN is spending to plaster Emanuel’s giant mug on billboards and hundreds of CTA buses all over Chicago and in other cities is fishy.

This statement from “Chicagoland” creator Robert Redford is fishy too:

“Look, I have a high regard for Rahm Emanuel. It is not an easy job. To manage a city like Chicago with so many disparate parts to it is not an enviable task. I think that he is as qualified as anybody, but boy, it's like being the president of the United States.”

There are those words: Rahm Emanuel and “President of the United States.”

Former White House advisor Dick Morris made this prediction at a Chicago press conference in January of 2011: “I’ve had enough of charismatic aggressive go-getter Chicago politicians who rise in national politics. I think Rahm [Emanuel] wants to be Senator and wants to be President and I’d like to nip that in the bud.”

When he spoke of “nipping that in the bud,” Morris was referring to Emanuel’s first run for Mayor of Chicago. The veteran political strategist has been around long enough to know that, for a political carnivore like Rahm Emanuel, the City of Chicago was always just a stepping stone, a footnote.

Just like it was for Sen. Barack Obama.

At the time Morris made his prediction, Emanuel was battling Chicago residency requirements to be on the mayoral ballot. Technically, Illinois election law wasn’t on Emanuel’s side: even Chicago city workers must physically reside in the Chicago city limits. But the Democrat dominated Illinois Supreme Court ruled in Emanuel’s favor anyway; he left some belongings in a Chicago crawl space.

They don’t call it “the Chicago Way” for nothing.

Now it is three years later and exactly one year before the 2015 Chicago mayoral election.

Emanuel has been making national moves to rehabilitate his sinister image – for what purpose no one knows.

President in 2016?

Perhaps Emanuel is angling to be Hillary’s 2016 vice presidential running mate. A Hillary-Rahm ticket?

Or perhaps he plans on challenging Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) in 2016.

Regardless of his intent, Emanuel has some work to do on his public image. He is not known as a nice or compassionate man - perhaps because he isn’t one. Vindictive is the word that really comes to my mind.

Emanuel’s f-bombs and the stories of him sending a dead fish to a pollster or plunging a stake into a table and ratting off the names of his enemies screaming “Dead! Dead! Dead!” have not painted an endearing portrait.

With his star turn in “Chicagoland,” the objective is to rebrand Rahm “Deadfish” Emanuel into a “tough, visionary mayor” for the 21st century – just like the CNN press release says.

But that’s not all.

Last weekend, “The Tonight Show’s” Jimmy Fallon teamed with Emanuel for the “Polar Plunge” in Chicago and the duo received national media attention of the warm and fuzzy kind – despite the frigid polar temperatures.

The March 2014 issue of Esquire sports a feature article on Emanuel with lots of prose about how Emanuel “inherited” most of Chicago’s ailments. (Hint: It’s not his fault!)

A week before, Emanuel sat down with New York Times columnist David Brooks for a Brookings Institute forum before a live audience. The topic: How “Chicago has continued its rise as a city known for policy innovation and action” under Emanuel’s leadership.

The same week, the Chicago Sun-Times ran a full-page article penned by Emanuel touting Chicago’s inspiring digital future.

Clearly, the campaign is underway. We are just not quite sure of the office.

Notwithstanding his national ambitions, Emanuel first has to win re-election as Mayor of Chicago in 2015. Sure, Emanuel is popular with the billionaire political elite aboard the insider gravy train. They don’t call him Mayor 1 Percent for nothing.

But Rahmbo is not popular with Chicagoans. The latest poll has his approval numbers in the tank. Chicago is still a progressive liberal town bar none.

Chicagoans don’t like that Emanuel has shut down Chicago Public Schools in favor of the taxpayer-funded charter schools that his pals have a financial interest in. Chicagoans don’t like that he has put their children in the gang crosshairs by the closing of those schools.

Last week, when Emanuel finally admitted some responsibility for Chicago’s epic homicide spike in 2012, he couched it as the “slow” response of police to splintered gangs. So the Chicago Police don’t like Emanuel either.

On Tuesday, Moody’s downgraded Chicago’s credit rating yet again. This is on the heels of the Chicago City Council’s unanimous approval of Emanuel’s plan to borrow nearly $ 1 billion dollars. The economic pain and suffering for Chicagoans will come after the 2015 mayoral election not before.

So much for the myth of Emanuel as the brilliant competent administrator.

All of these things have given Chicago – and Emanuel – a nasty political black eye. A million dollar CNN ad campaign might help Emanuel overcome that for 2015 and beyond. Or maybe it won’t.

But all of this is very fishy indeed.

William J. Kelly is a senior media strategist, TV critic and producer of Emmy award-winning television. He is a contributor to CDN, American Spectator, and the Huffington Post. Kelly writes about Chicago politics and its cast of political characters. He is a native of Chicago’s South Side.


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