Friday, January 01, 2016

chiraq to the potomac: fish rots from the head


newyorker |  It’s hard to remember a time when Rahm Emanuel wasn’t a Democratic Party superstar. Go back to 1991, when the thirty-two-year-old took over fund-raising for Bill Clinton. He  was soon renowned for making the staff come to work on Sundays, shrieking into the phone to donors things like “Five thousand dollars is an insult! You’re a twenty-five-thousand-dollar person!”—and, not incidentally, helping Clinton afford the blitz of TV commercials that saved him from the Gennifer Flowers scandal, clearing his course to the White House. The legend continued through this past April, when Rahm—in Chicago and D.C., he’s known by that single name—won a second term as the mayor of Chicago in a come-from-behind landslide.

Now the sins of Emanuel are finally catching up with him. Lucky for him, however, the compounding police-shooting scandal has erased from the news a peccadillo from this past November: the mayor’s press team was eavesdropping and recording reporters while they interviewed aldermen critical of the mayor. A spokesman responded to the press by saying that their only intent was also “to make sure reporters have what you need, which is exactly what you have here.” That made no sense. But then so much of the legend of Rahm Emanuel’s brilliant career makes little sense. The bigger question, perhaps, is what this says about a political party and the political press that bought the legend in the first place.