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The [Thursday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes / Posted on February 26, 2015

We are now approaching Peak Tribune.

I'll start with two examples this morning. More to come later - and from other outlets too.

First, the Trib's editorial, titled "Level With Us, Mayor Emanuel."

Now, on first glance, one might think, Hallelujah, they're finally demanding our serial liar of a mayor tell the truth!

Um, no.

"Now what to do? The more you blanket the city with TV ads, the more you invite the very image that Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia and his allies want to impose: You've taken care of the wealthy people, the clout crowd, so they would give you as many millions as it takes to win. Or lose."

Do not let Garcia and his allies impose that image! The fact that you and your Super PAC raised an ungodly $30 million from the precincts of Hollywood, Wall Street and Washington, D.C.? Don't let that be imposed! Or that you spend most of your time meeting with millionaires? Don't let them impose that "image!"

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Does the edit board read its own paper?

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"There's another way, Mr. Mayor. No, not changing your personality (demanding), or your point of origin (suburbia), or your personal style (let's generously go with 'self-confident'). Too late for that. You are who you are - which is precisely why a lot of Chicagoans are happy to see you scramble for their votes.

"But if this runoff race is all about Rahm Emanuel, you can lose it. So make this about Chicago, for better and worse: Level with us.

"Tell us the whole truth, the way you did four years ago."

Well, at least the Tribune is acknowledging that Rahm hasn't told the truth since he was elected.

*

"Help us face that truth. And make your opponent face it. He's a good man. Don't rip him down. But draw a distinction: You have a realistic vision of a Chicago that can survive and thrive. He has an unrealistic vision of a Chicago that can spend ever more enormous amounts of nonexistent money, if only we, like numerous Greek governments, deny reality."

I guess even the Trib got tired of scaring everybody with the specter of Detroit, so we get Greece.

*

"Chicago, Mr. Mayor, is full of smart people who can understand why you've closed schools and focused on city overhead costs - if only you would stop boasting about hard decisions and . . . explain . . . what . . . Chicago . . . faces."

The Trib edit board just called everyone opposed to the school closings stupid. The irony? The edit board seems to be the only ones in the debate who haven't read the research that shows school closings not only barely do not save money, if at all, but generally cost money.

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"You can do this. You've never been better than when you endured long hours of hectoring over your residency (Chicagoan? Washingtonian?) four years ago. You listened, you answered, you didn't always change the subject to whatever canned message you wanted to project."

He was being questioned by the election board - he couldn't exactly answer residency questions by talking about his uncle the cop instead.

*

"Resurrect that Rahm Emanuel. He explained why this city's finances threaten this city's services. He talked with us, not at us. He was compelling. He convinced us to accept the inevitable economizing. He energized us for the fight to keep Chicago out of bankruptcy. And, in a four-way race, we gave him 55 percent of our votes."

By "us" accepting economizing, you mean "other people," right? Certainly the suburbanites running the edit board didn't have to accept economizing.

*

"Somewhere, though, that guy let his legendary focus drift . . . to national party politics, to fundraising for his next campaign, to a thin-skinned defensiveness that grates on Chicagoans."

He is who he is. You said it yourself.

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"One example among many, Mr. Mayor: When people learned that red light cameras were cheating them systematically, you didn't man up. You didn't take ownership. You didn't fire one bureaucrat a day until you could give Chicagoans answers about who cheated them, how. Instead you lawyered up. You stonewalled reporters. You breezily said the camera system needs fixing. Is that so."

True. And this isn't just one example among many, it's the mayor's very modus operandi. That's a big part of what makes him bad for the job.

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"You have six weeks, Mr. Mayor, to level with us."

Well, he had four years. And you, Tribune, endorsed him anyway.

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"Except this time show us - not with blame but with candor - how Mayor Richard M. Daley stretched city finances to the breaking point, then watched helplessly as the Great Recession finished the rupture."

The same Richard M. Daley you endorsed every single time? See, this part always confuses me.

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"Daley's failure wasn't the recession; those come and go. Daley's failure was the stretching, the spending, the pretending that nothing bad would ever put Chicago on the road to Detroit."

Boom! There it is!

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"Because many of us who want you to win this runoff expect that you'll retreat into a cubbyhole with media buyers and campaign pollsters and political advisers and message makers, and emerge with some sweeter, humbler brand of Rahm Emanuel to peddle in the runoff race."

Um, isn't that what you've just recommended?

*

"Don't do that, Mr. Mayor. Go against that grain, your grain. Go back to Candidate Rahm Emanuel of late 2010, early 2011. You were bracing, but you were authentic. You told us how we could help you rescue a city that you and we love."

Okay, now I'm confused again. Which is the real Rahm now?

Also, we were supposed to help him "rescue" the city?

I thought he was supposed to help us.

*

"Your opponent now, Commissioner Garcia? He loves Chicago, too. He also has the wind at his back: On many streets he'll be a source of great pride - with enough votes, 'Chicago's First Latino Mayor!'

"That's a powerful force, Mayor Emanuel, and you may not be able to beat it. But you can beat a candidate who offers promises but no way to pay for them. Who has no way to pay for his pipe dreams."

I can't disagree that Garcia has basically promised everything to everyone. That's one reason why I haven't really liked his campaign. But that's not really the point. The point is that each of these candidates seems to have reverse priorities. Rahm is essentially a supply-side Republican who believes that making life even more comfortable for the wealthy while cutting social services and ignoring everyday Chicagoans is the best approach - not to saving a city, but building his national profile. Garcia - whom we know isn't going anywhere - seems to put a priority on everyday Chicagoans living in everyday neighborhoods. That's what will inform his budgets when he has to face the reality that many of his promises will be difficult to fulfill.

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"Wake up all those smart Chicago voters."

Maybe take your own advice, Tribune, and drop the (unwarranted) arrogance and talk with us, not about us like we're not in the room.

*

"Explain what's wrong, and what's right, with the road Chicago is on. Explain not just why, but how, you won't let that road take us all the way to Detroit."

Boom! A two-fer!

*

"On Tuesday, Campaign Emanuel didn't do well. On April 7, a more candid, less programmed Candidate Emanuel just might."

Just for the next six weeks. Then you can go back to being a dick.

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From a member of Beachwood Nation:

"I don't know if you look at the hard copy, but there, a box on the front page pointing to the editorial says: 'You have six weeks, Mr. Mayor, to resurrect the candid, authentic Rahm Emanuel of four years ago.' Wow. Authentic? Do they mean, not pretending he isn't an asshole?"

I would add: He's had four years. He can't fix who he is in six weeks.

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Now let's take a look at editorial board member Kristen McQueary weighing in with her own bit of weirdness.

"Emanuel is in trouble," McQueary writes.

"Why? Many reasons, but one is this: Voters aren't realistic about the financial tsunami this city faces."

I'm not above calling voters dumb - they put Rahm in office in the first place - but geez!

*

"If they were, they would not have galvanized around Garcia, who wants to reopen closed schools that for decades failed to properly educate kids. Where was the outrage over the schools' failure year after year to teach kids to read? Chronically underperforming schools in neighborhoods with the greatest population loss, in a school district teetering on bankruptcy, needed to close."

I'll tell you where the outrage was: In your face! Nobody has been more outraged about CPS for decades than its teachers and the parents who send their kids there. Where has the Tribune been?

To close "chronically underperforming" schools in neighborhoods with the greatest population losses is the exact opposite thing to do if your interest is in serving those kids. Maybe ask yourself: Why are these schools chronically underperforming and not others? Why are these neighborhoods losing population and not others? And why is a school district in a city with as much wealth as Chicago teetering - forever, so let's be clear - on the brink of bankruptcy? You can't run a school district successfully in a city that isn't invested in that school district - and this city isn't. If it was, Rahm and his pals would send their kids to public schools just like the rest of us. The fact is, CPS is for "other" kids. And those without a real stake who issue their moral proclamations from the sidelines are the biggest hypocrites of all. Hate to break it to you, but Rahm sends his kids to a school that opposes virtually every policy he has backed for CPS. But maybe the folks at the University of Chicago Lab School are just dumb, like the rest of the masses.

*

"If voters were concerned about the city's finances, they would understand that Garcia's knee-jerk proposal to hire 1,000 more police officers would not automatically decrease crime."

Voters are concerned about their own finances - because their political leaders obviously are not. That said, I agree that Garcia's policing proposal is nonsense. But then, so was that "authentic" pledge Rahm made four years ago to . . . hire 1,000 more police officers.

*

"If voters worried about economics, they would not have voted for a candidate who wants an elected school board - essentially putting the Chicago Teachers Union, whose mission is to protect pay and benefits of the adults in the system, in charge of the schools."

First, an elected school board is about accountability. Second, why would an elected school board put the CTU in charge? Rahm and his Super PAC - and his Super Friends like the Rauners and Griffins and Pritzkers and Spielbergs - wouldn't have candidates in the races? If the CTU was that good at electoral politics, the progressive caucus of the city council would have reached double digits by now.

*

"In fact, Garcia - a nice guy who promises the moon but has no realistic means to pay for it - is the prototype of the very politician teachers scream about who underfunded their pensions for years."

Really? I thought it was Machine politicians who did that. And if you know anything about Garcia, you know that he has spent his career opposing the Machine. That much is true.

*

"Left-leaning Democrats in Springfield and nice guys on the City Council are the people in charge who passed budgets, year after year, that borrowed against the retirements of government workers."

First, there are very few "left-leaning" Democrats in Springfield. Second, there are Republicans down there too, last time I looked. Republicans have even been governor!

Second, nice guys in the city council? Again, the nice guys have always been in the (extreme) minority. You are blaming people like Garcia for the sins of the Burkes and Mells (and Daleys and Emanuels).

*

"But none of that mattered Tuesday. Voters showed they care more about potholes, red light cameras and personality."

There we are again: Voters are stupid!

*

"Don't misread me: Those aren't insignificant concerns. They're exactly why Emanuel got shoved into a runoff and why Garcia might win. Most voters don't want to digest the stark math of the city's financial peril. They are turned off by Emanuel. And they're addicted to fairy dust."

You mean the fairy dust the Tribune sold us for 22 years of Daley?

*

Speaking of fairy dust, the Trib also endorsed Bruce Rauner.

*

"As for Emanuel's personality, his arrogance and his tone-deafness, I get it. I didn't vote for Emanuel on Tuesday for many reasons, including his dismissiveness toward the city's most vulnerable neighborhoods."

WHOA! YOU JUST SPENT AN ENTIRE COLUMN BASHING VOTERS FOR DOING WHAT YOU NOW ACKNOWLEDGE YOU DID YOURSELF!

*

Truly, I am . . . just . . . WTF.

*

"But against Garcia in a runoff, I might have to reconsider and hold my nose."

So, you voted for Fioretti. So did I.

Here's a tip: Fioretti's positions are virtually the same as Garcia's.

Fioretti's positions are opposite of Emanuel's.

I might have to hold my nose to finish reading this column.

*

"Because for all of his shortcomings, for all of his overpromise and underdeliver, Emanuel has tried to reform pensions. He has slowed the growth of controversial tax increment financing districts. He has tried to reduce the burden on taxpayers who subsidize city workers' health insurance. He does not support an elected school board. He hasn't caved to immense pressure to hire more police."

Even though he promised to hire more police four years ago when the Trib says he was being real, and he promised to reform TIFs and hasn't come close, and his pension reform solution is to wait on Springfield.

*

"As smarter people than I often say: You can't lead from a position of bankruptcy."

I've never heard anyone say that in my entire life.

*

"So will I come around for Emanuel by April? I don't know."

After all that, she still might vote for Chuy!

You know what that tells me? And I say this for the first time: Chuy is going to win.

Because if Kristen McQueary still isn't sure about Rahm after writing a column like this, then all those dumb voters out there certainly aren't going to vote for him.

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TrackNotes: A Lo-Res Horizontal Squeeze
I'll keep saying it: Even if you have no interest in horse racing, reading Tom Chambers is a pleasure. He's just so wiseguy horsey.

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BeachBook
* Former FBI Assistant Director: To Keep Budgets High, We Must 'Keep Fear Alive.'

* NYT Public Editor: More On Bullshit Anonymous Sources.

* Luna Carpet Alternate Spanish Jingle.

* Chicago Tuba Player In Empire.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

See the full @BeachwoodReport feed for real-time dispatches from 2012 in which detainees and lawyers complain about being "disappeared" to the "black site" that is Homan.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Hat tip.

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