Hey, Rahm -- Lay Off Trump and Start Fixing Chicago
Rahm Emanuel appeared Tuesday on Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” and wowed the host and audience with his rabid anti-Trump rhetoric. Perhaps jealous of his famous Hollywood power-agent brother, Ari Emanuel, Rahm giddily joined the cacophony of late-night TV anti-Trump snark and, unknowingly, provided Chicagoans a Nero-like vision of a failed leader playing his fiddle as his city smolders, beset by rampant violence, failing schools, and a fleeing population.
It’s a time-honored tactic. Failed autocrats divert attention from internal problems by blaming outside influences. Fidel Castro mastered the art of distraction for decades, ascribing responsibility for his country’s rampant poverty not to his own failed Marxist-inspired economic policies but to the longstanding U.S. trade embargo, which he termed “the cruel blockade against the Cuban people.” Emanuel follows a similar playbook: ignore the bodies, mostly black ones, lying dead in his streets and instead focus on that Donald J. Trump guy in the White House.
But Chicago’s besieged residents don’t have the luxury of jetting off to New York for TV appearances, or to Mexico for a climate summit, as Mayor Emanuel did. Instead, they live in some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the developed world. Part of the reason for this carnage is Emanuel’s terrible leadership of the Chicago Police Department. He fired former Superintendent Garry McCarthy in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting, even though a civilian oversight board, not McCarthy, led the investigation of that case – and despite the fact that Emanuel, not McCarthy, suppressed video of the shooting until after he won re-election.
Notably, in the two years since firing McCarthy in late 2015, Chicago has suffered over 1,400 homicides, a 70 percent increase over the prior two years with McCarthy in charge. Emanuel owns that increased body count. Some of this violence also clearly emanates from a badly run public school system in which only 26 percent of students are considered, per state testing, ready for the next grade level. Of those who do graduate from Chicago public schools and attend the city’s community colleges – and those are considered the success stories – fully 91 percent require remedial courses before beginning the standard curriculum.
Rather than address these crises, Emanuel prefers to lob verbal assaults at the president, smugly declaring to Colbert that Chicago is a “Trump-free zone.” Well, Mr. Mayor, sorry to inform you but it’s also a war zone. Emanuel also told Chicago students that their schools are “Trump-free.” Fine, Rahm, but your schools are also learning-free.
Given these harsh realities, perhaps it is no surprise that people continue to vote with their feet and leave the Windy City. Chicago is the only major city in America to lose population in both 2015 and 2016. The exodus of black middle-class residents has been particularly pronounced -- and destabilizing to many neighborhoods.
I happen to be a strong supporter of Donald Trump. But regardless of any Chicagoan’s opinion regarding the president, it seems clear that the mayor’s Trump obsession reveals an unseemly dive into the realm of diversion politics at their very worst. The City of Big Shoulders deserves better.