Rahm Emanuel can take care of himself.
The Chicago Mayor is known for his toughness, sharp tongue and get-it-done-at-all-costs attitude.
So we here at Ward Room were a bit surprised to receive an unsolicited letter defending Emanuel against claims made by Chicago Teacher's Union president Karen Lewis, in which she says the mayor wrote off 25% of Chicago Public School children. The letter came from the man who used to drive Emanuel around, who wasn't privy to the conversation but who read our report.
"I worked very closely with Rahm as his driver and assistant from his first campaign for congress through his sojourn to the White House," wrote Jack Lanahan, a former congressional staffer when Rahm Emanuel served in the capitol who made about $16,000 working there in 2008. "I would be at events and hear his public comments and then hear his private comments when we left in the car (some to me but most to other staff or friends) and I can tell you unequivocally that what Lewis is saying is desperately false."
The accusation leveled by Lewis went like this: "In that conversation, he did say to me that 25 percent of the students in this city are never going to be anything, never going to amount to anything and he was never going to throw money at them."
The Mayor's office denied the veracity of Lewis's claim, calling it "simply false."
Lanahan, who says he wrote in unprompted by anyone in the Mayor's office tends to agree, because, he says, Emanuel is too smart to say such a dumb thing.
"If there's one thing we can all agree upon with regard to Rahm Emanuel it's that he's a pro and just the same way that he'd never REALLY say anything damaging (about himself) on or off the record to you - someone he's calculated COULD damage him -- even if relayed in a personal anecdote between you and someone wanting to know what 'he's really like' - he'd NEVER in a million years say something like that to Lewis even under friendlier circumstances."
Lanahan goes on to say that Emanuel truly does care about education initiatives.
"As insincere as some may find him on issues, when it comes to kids and education he means what he says in public."
Lewis said Emanuel's comments were uttered during a professional "date" in which they had dinner and then went to see a dance.
Lanahan, who later gave Ward Room permission to run excerpts from his letter, ends the communication by saying:
"My suspicion is that he probably indicated that 25% of TEACHERS were not productive and dead weight. How would Emanuel even propose to single out the 25% of students that Lewis contends he was opposed to funding? I was in no way put-up to writing this and haven't talked to him [Emanuel] in a year."
It should be noted that Lanahan has written glowing "unsolicited" reviews for Emanuel before. A Google search of John Lanahan's name reveals this passage, posted on Amazon, touting the merits of Emanuel's book The Plan: Big Ideas for America as the first result.
Food for thought.