Rahm Emanuel Has No Acceptable Excuse

I’ve never been a Rahm-hater. I haven’t always appreciated his attitude or the way he can be dismissive of criticism, but I also noted his effectiveness. It’s not that I’ve ever been a fan or supporter of Emanuel, it’s just that I’ve never shared the visceral distaste for him that I’ve seen in a lot of blogosphere. And I certainly never believed that his appointment as Obama’s chief of staff was an ideological signifier. I’ve always believed that Emanuel and Obama were first and foremost personal friends and Chicago-based pols rather than like-minded thinkers. The new president got a couple of valuable things out of Emanuel. First, Rahm had prior West Wing experience from the Clinton administration, and second, he had recently been in charge of the DCCC and had relationships with scores of Hill lawmakers who actually owed him something.

I have to say, though, that while I might be late to the party, I’m beginning to join the ranks of harsh critics. You’d really have to be stupid not to see through the scam Emanuel pulled to conceal police misconduct in the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald until after he had been safely reelected. I mean, we now know that his office was apprised of the fact that there was video footage at least two months before election day. And even if it isn’t yet completely established that Emanuel knew by then that the police were engaged in a cover-up, the totality of the rest of the record is crystal clear. Emanuel joined in the cover-up.

However, if NBC Chicago’s reporting has indeed uncovered the first evidence that Emanuel’s office was aware that the story his police department was pushing was dishonest, the news will bolster calls for the mayor’s resignation.

The emails are dated December 8, 2014 — less than two months after Van Dyke killed McDonald, nearly two months before Election Day in 2015, and almost a full year before charges were finally filed against [Officer Jason] Van Dyke. So far, Emanuel has convened a panel to review police practices and fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, but the moves have not quelled anger toward the mayor himself.

Much of the most pointed criticism of Emanuel has centered on the idea that he may have suppressed the truth about McDonald’s death during the closing weeks of his contentious re-election campaign. Emanuel was eventually re-elected in an April run-off following February’s initial contest. A week later, the city took the unusual step of approving a $5 million payment to McDonald’s family even though his survivors had not then filed a lawsuit. The timing of that payment so shortly after Emanuel’s job was secure again has raised suspicions that City Hall knew more about the gap between police officials’ story and the video evidence during the campaign.

You don’t hand people $5 million dollars without a good understanding of what you’re paying for, particularly when they aren’t even asking for the money. To say that this arrangement, which was made immediately after Emanuel was reelected in the April run-off, has “raised suspicions” is to really undersell the intelligence of the American people.

I’d go so far to say that he’s damned either way. Either he covered up a murder or he’s the kind of steward of the people’s tax money who allows $5 million dollars to be handed out without asking why.

I think calls for his resignation are totally legitimate.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.