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The [G8] Papers

There's a still a lot to be gleaned from President Obama's decision to move the G8 summit from Chicago to Camp David. We have the best gleanings. Shall we?

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"Administration officials and associates, speaking only on the condition of anonymity, said the president in recent weeks began discussing the idea of a more intimate setting for the world leaders - both to ease their communications and to cut down on the security concerns and traffic tie-ups of a big-city summit," the New York Times reports.

Right. The administration was worried about traffic tie-ups. But the anonymous aides got that absurdity equal footing with security concerns.

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"President Barack Obama today said he was confident in Chicago's ability to host a gathering of world leaders and played down the notion that security concerns had anything to do with the decision to move the May G-8 meeting from Chicago to Camp David," the Tribune reports.

"In response to a question during a press briefing in Washington, Obama noted that the NATO summit scheduled for the same weekend will still be held in Chicago, bringing him and other world leaders to the city."

So why make them - and their entourages - travel to two locations the same weekend?

"The G-8 'tends to be a more informal setting where we talk about a wide range of issues in an intimate way,' Obama said. 'People would enjoy being in a more casual backdrop.'"

But the New York Times notes that "Last June, in announcing Chicago as the host city for the back-to-back summits, an administration official told reporters, 'We felt it was important to explore options beyond Washington because often you have these things in the capital city.' The Obama administration, the official added, wanted 'to highlight other parts of America that represent the character of our people and that can make for interesting venues.'"

*

From Obama's press conference:

"We're still going to be showing up with a whole bunch of world leaders. We've got this NATO summit. Typically what's happened is, is that we try to attach the G-8 summit to the NATO summit so that the leaders in the G-8 summit don't have to travel twice to whatever location. So last year, in France, we combined a G-8 with a NATO summit. We'll do so again."

Actually, that's patently untrue. Crain's notes that no city has hosted both summits back-to-back except London in 1977.
Chicago will never know if it could have pulled off hosting both the NATO and G8 summits back to back, as no other city has done except London in 1977.

"I have to say, this was an idea that was brought to me after the initial organizing of the NATO summit. Somebody pointed out that I hadn't had any of my counterparts, who I've worked with now for three years, up to Camp David."

Really? Who brought that to you? After all the organizing Chicago had done? Totally implausible.

"President Barack Obama, defending the switch in location of the Group of Eight (G-8) summit to Camp David from his home city of Chicago, said on Tuesday that the scenic retreat promised fine weather and a more intimate setting for world leaders to talk," the Tribune reports.

Right. The weather.

*

Average Temperatures in May:

Chicago: 69/49.
Camp David: 73/51.

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"Of the two meetings, the G-8 is the one you want," University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson told the Tribune. "They are world leaders and they bring entourages - people who are closer to business interests than with NATO, which is focused on security."

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Old Conventional Wisdom: The G-8's gonna be great for the city!

New Conventional Wisdom: Thank God they cancelled the G-8!

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With the exception of a phone call to John Kass, Rahm Emanuel appears to be completely avoiding the media, having only issued a written statement. Such a tough guy!

New theory: Rahm asked Obama to take it off his hands. Couldn't pull it off.

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From Kass:

"It's a win-win situation,' Mayor Emanuel told me over the phone. 'Chicago gets to host all the heads of state at the NATO summit. And the president hosts the G-8 meetings at Camp David, which is essential for the kind of environment he wants.'"

Yeah. Why not just say, "You know what? We're disappointed. It sucks. But oh well."

Would that be so wrong?

I wonder what it's like being a mayor - or a president - who feels it necessary to obfuscate the truth all the time in order to retain power or maintain an image. In other words, what is it like to live a lie?

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More Kass:

"While protesters still aim to antagonize the Chicago establishment at the NATO summit, many of the recent demonstrations here have been driven by organized labor. Getting their members revved up to hurl insults and shriek at merchant bankers is one thing. But getting a mass protest to rip on heads of state who are establishing a timeline to pull the troops out of Afghanistan is another matter."

*

Greg Hinz, unhinged:

"The Grant Park riots of 1968 were a long, long time ago, now only a distant memory to me and something to read in history books for much of Chicago. But the city never fully exorcised that poltergeist."

A) How would you? Bring a goat to Michigan and Balbo? It happened.

B) The media narrative after the 1996 Democratic convention here was that 1968 had been exorcised. It's still being said.

For example, a Tribune reporter wrote last June when the G-8 and NATO summits were awarded to Chicago that "Chicago largely has exorcised its troubled history of playing host to large gatherings. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley reversed the nightmares of his father's riot-torn 1968 Democratic National Convention by hosting a successful coronation of Bill Clinton's re-election bid 28 years later."

Also, the protesters were right. That never seems to get acknowledged. It's all about how the police "handle" them, not the substance of the issues at play.

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More Hinz:

"The decision is a humiliation. No other word will suffice. Everybody - and I mean everybody - in the local power structure got caught by surprise on this one, which came less than three months before the summit was scheduled to occur.

"After the 2016 Olympics stumble, in which Chicago finished dead last, the summit could have brought a measure of redemption."

Really? Chicago loses in an international competition vs. the mayor's friend lets him host the summit in what could only be described as a no-bid contract. Redemption! We won when we rigged the game!

"Instead, the message harkens all the way back to '68: Chicago's not ready for the big time."

What's funny about the big time is that we're never there; there's always one more event we need, one more piece of data, one more type of validation to reassure us that we're, um, big time. The quality of our media is never a metric, though.

*

More Hinz:

"Having a mayor who's a big thinker and an ex-presidential chief of staff can be great. But volunteering his city to host the event without researching who would pay, whether security would be sufficient and even whether McCormick Place would be available was just sloppy.

"That's why the city had to persuade the huge National Restaurant Association show to change the dates for its McCormick Place confab - and throw a couple of million dollars in the pot to make it go down."

That's right.

"Chicago came forward with a one-time financial package aimed at reducing some losses that could occur due to the schedule change," the Tribune reported last July. "The association, the city's convention bureau and the mayor's office declined to discuss the specifics of the deal."

And now they're really declining!

"The package is worth about $2 million and includes public and private funding sources, according to sources close to the deal."

Public. Funding.

*

Hinz: "I asked top Obama adviser David Axelrod about that, about what was behind the change in plans.

"'The suggestion bubbled up' from staff, Mr. Axelrod replied in an e-mail, 'and (Obama) liked it.'"

It just bubbled up from the staff. Obama liked it.

*

Back to Hinz, because this is just such a classic. I think he's more busted up about this than Rahm.

"I'm told it became absolutely impossible to rent a bomb-sniffing dog."

They couldn't keep bomb-sniffing dogs in stock!

"But it's part of a trend, which goes back to 1968. The disastrous Democratic convention that year. The aborted bid to stage a world's fair in 1992. The fourth-place stumble in the Olympics' race. Now this."

The 1996 Democratic convention. The 2005 White Sox World Series celebration. Obama's election night in Grant Park.

"'We ain't cutting it in the pursuit-of-greatness game,' says a veteran top Chicago civic player who asks not to be named. 'That this came from 'our own' White House makes it all the colder.'"

It's not our world-class poverty or education that bothers top Chicago civic players; it's our inability to be great as measured by the ability to host a G-8 during a time of global economic meltdown. We suck!

"[I]t's clear that the Second City has yet to find its way."

The truest thing Hinz wrote.

*

"John Hogan, chef at downtown steakhouse Keefer's, who worked with the Illinois Restaurant Association on 'Chicago's Culinary Crossroads,' an initiative to draw international attention to the local dining scene during the summits . . . described the G8 loss as a major blow. 'It was going to put Chicago on the international map,' he said."

I thought Al Capone did that. Then I thought Michael Jordan did that. Then I thought Barack Obama did that. Who would've thought that the G-8 summit was the key to international mapmaking!

*

"Since the summit was held in Genoa, Italy, in 2001 - a meeting that sparked protests that descended into riots - no G8 country has hosted a meeting in a major city," Crain's reports.

And the cities and towns that have hosted have yet to make the international map!

"Several sources say the decision to relocate to Camp David, the secluded presidential retreat in Maryland, was a prudent move and not one that should reflect badly on Chicago."

Those sources requested anonymity so as not to be outed as trespassing in false banalities and also because each has a last name that starts with E and ends with L.

*

"The notion of using Camp David only came up after Chicago was booked - at the urging of Emanuel - for the back-to-back summits, Obama said," the Sun-Times reports.

"I have to say this was an idea that was brought to me after the initial organizing of the NATO summit," Obama said. "Somebody pointed out that I hadn't had any of my counterparts, who I've worked with now for three years, up to Camp David."

Somebody - we're never told who, but Axelrod says it bubbled up from staff - brought the idea to the president even though Chicago was knee-deep in organizing and preparing just because Obama hadn't invited any of his peers to Camp David yet?

Sources said this should not reflect badly on the president.

*

The Tribune editorial page isn't buying it.

*

"President Barack Obama said Tuesday the G-8 relocation from Chicago to Camp David did not come because of security concerns," the Sun-Times report says.

But the Tribune buries this nugget:

"Patrick O'Connor, 40th, the mayor's City Council floor leader, said city officials told him the call to move G-8 out of Chicago was made for security reasons."

Let's face it, there's no other reason that passes the stink test, if you allow for Obama's concern over a melee in an election-year to fall under the security umbrella. I've got a Volt to sell to anyone who thinks a more intimate setting is anything but a whopping lie. The only outstanding question is whether the summit was pulled or Rahm gave it away.

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"'I'm still pulling myself off the ground on this. Give me some oxygen,' said Patrick Donelly, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Chicago. He ventured no further comments.

"A check of online reservation sites showed many downtown hotels as being booked for the summit weekend. Mid-grade hotels that still had rooms were trying to get more than $250 a night, and some were said to be requiring advance payment."

*

Old Conventional Wisdom: Holding the G-8 here is a stroke of genius by Rahm. His pull in the White House is really going to help us.

New Conventional Wisdom: Holding the G-8 here was a stupid idea. The White House was right to pull it. What was Rahm thinking?

*

"Its possible, though, that Chicago still has the best part of the bargain. The NATO meeting is far larger, with 28 nations taking part and dozens more on the outside looking in," David Roeder inexplicably writes in the Sun-Times. "Six nations in the G-8 belong to NATO anyway."

Sources say nothing should ever reflect badly on Chicago!

"Yet for whatever reason, the G-8 has a more devoted following of protesters, the vast majority with honestly held convictions, but with some just looking to stomp a squad car."

For whatever reason, Roeder cannot possibly comprehend why meetings of the world's economic powers would draw more protesters than a military alliance of Western nations.

"[O]ur immediate loss from the G-8 move seems slight."

Old conventional wisdom: This will be a great economic benefit to Chicago!

New conventional wisdom: It really wasn't going to bring in much money anyway.

"Many business leaders not in immediate thrall to Emanuel grumbled about the summits."

Now he tells us!

"Some think the opposition filtered back to President Obama and convinced him to move the G-8. That's doubtful, but there's no harm in letting the world think we have common sense."

Common sense as uncommon right up to the moment the summit was moved.

*

The Tribune news department - not editorial - wants to assure you that the spotlight is still on "us."

*

Straight news reports always from the perspective of the city - the official city government, including Rahm's political imperatives - not the citizens. Always about not ruining it for the most powerful people on the planet. A different perspective might be from citizens here or even protesters - instead of stories about economic benefit (manufactured narrative backed by no evidence; in fact, anti-evidence) - we could have seen stories about how those responsible for derailing our economic lives were finally appearing together in our city and what we could do about it. Not just protest, but what other ways of expression? Where would the inflection points be for policy? Would any public events take place - events of substance about the critical issues at hand, not food-tasting? What would the decisions made at the summit and the discussions herein mean for us - not as potential recipients of supposed future tourism but as citizens struggling in the aftermath of economic disruption?

Straight news reports also presume that "Chicago" wants to be known as a world-class city instead of a city with happy citizens leading safe, productive and interesting lives. Democrats pretend to rail against trickle-down economics nationally, but this is just what they are selling locally. Let our elites make deals and we'll all benefit! Has that happened yet? (That's why Miguel del Valle's mayoral campaign was different; his focus was from the neighborhoods - meaning us citizens - up.) Let us make money and you'll get some crumbs that fall off the table! If we have to fire some teachers along the way and close mental health clinics, so be it!

We saw it with the Olympics and we saw that no lessons were learned. Facts are facts, except when journalists find them inconvenient to the narratives burned into their brains. (No one asks if it would be good for the city's reputation and act as a magnet to people wanting strong neighborhoods - you know, where people who don't live downtown live - if we had the happiest teachers on the planet and a political leadership so committed to schools they actually deigned to send their own children there and desegregating housing patterns was the top priority and the bottom of the economic ladder was more important than the top, which is doing quite well, thank you. No narrative we get to see wonders if that wouldn't actually make Chicago a global city of note - a city that really works and thus has people breaking down our doors to live here, instead of 200,000 bailing (or pushed out) in the last decade. And guess what? With eager, hard-working citizens educated and trained or willing to be, employers would be enticed to stay here or move because of the quality workforce - and also for their own selfish reasons, which usually prevail anyway. Glory!)

*

Rahm is so tough he goes into hiding when bad news arises; he's so tough he can't face the press. He can't take a tough question. He's so tough he has to spin a "message" every day because real truth is to hard for him to handle. He's so tough he has to berate reporters and whine about how hard it is to govern if everyone knows what he's doing behind the scenes. What a tough guy. Rahm Emanuel.

*

"The Occupy movement should take credit for chasing the G-8 Summit out of Chicago in May, a founder of the radical 1970s Weather Underground said in Springfield Tuesday," the State Journal-Register reports.

"'They realized the couldn't actually put on their little show of power,' Bill Ayers told about 50 people at the Golden Frog Cafe in an appearance hosted by a new Springfield group, Foundation for a United Front. 'It's a defeat for them and a victory for the people's movement.'"

I don't see how. Don't you think "they" would rather put on their show in private? I don't see how being denied a worldwide platform to put grievances on the table is a victory.

*

"While the unexpected decision to move the G8 from Chicago is a victory for the city's working families - proving that their voices can have a significant impact - it does little to alleviate their economic suffering," Stand Up! Chicago says.

"The prospect of hosting one or both of these summits has revealed a lot about the priorities of the city's leading corporations. We've been told there's no money for job creation, and that we have to give highly profitable corporations like the CME huge tax breaks just to keep them in the city," said Stand Up! Chicago Policy Analyst Elizabeth Parisian. "Then these summits come along and suddenly World Business Chicago members are able to come up with these large sums."

*

Finally, from the Reader's NATO/G8 primer - pre-hullabaloo:

"What has Mayor Emanuel done to explain to Chicagoans how the summits will make their great city even greater?

"He's worked diligently to spin the press. For example, on January 12, his press office welcomed about 25 reporters to a City Hall briefing to clear up confusion about the summits. When they were finished, reporters were even more confused.

"Several of the top officials responsible for the city's preparations were there, including Lori Healey, executive director of the NATO/G8 host committee. Also in attendance were at least five mayoral press aides, who laid out rules for the reporters: we were allowed to quote anything we wanted, but we couldn't name the person who said it.

"'We want everyone to be able to speak freely,' one of the press flacks explained."

*

"For the next hour-and-a-half, the officials took turns stressing that the summits presented a huge opportunity to 'showcase Chicago as a world-class city' - they used the phrase repeatedly. They added that they couldn't provide many details about what it would mean for people who actually live here."

*

"I guess it's good that Chicago's going to be 'showcased.' But did city officials share the analysis they conducted showing how much this will cost and benefit us?

"Funny you should ask about that, because we did too. Unfortunately, the city hasn't been able to produce anything in response to our request for the cost-benefit analysis they've conducted. Aldermen say they haven't been shown any analysis either.

"There's a good reason for this: the city hasn't conducted a formal cost-benefit analysis.

"None?

"City officials tell us they're 'in possession of some very preliminary cost estimates in draft form' - but they can't share them with us. Still, they insist that the events will be a net gain for Chicago's economy.

"So the supposed benefit to Chicago comes down to an unsubstantiated assurance from officials who've asked us not to name them?

"That's right."

*

"Okay, so we don't know how this is going to benefit Chicago. Do we at least know what it's going to cost us?

"Nope, don't know that either. City officials say there's no way of knowing all the summit expenses until federal officials finalize the logistics in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the city is using past summits in other cities to come up with guesstimates of $40 million to $65 million. But it's unclear what the $40 million to $65 million would cover - security, entertainment for visiting dignitaries and journalists, marketing, or everything in between. 'It's too early to say,' one spokeswoman tells us."

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See also: Missing Our Moment: Why I'm disappointed that the summit that never should have come here is now going away.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on March 7, 2012


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