Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

How Rahm Emanuel's Hollywood Campaign Works

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    NEWSLETTERS

    It is a beautifully produced ad, with cocktail-bar piano music, tightly-framed closeups, and earnestly-delivered testimonials. It even has a story arc.

    Rahm Emanuel’s new web video, “Getting It Done,“ begins with Chicago firefighter Pat Kehoe discussing how complicated it was to fill out his daughter Erin’s financial aid form, which was 114 questions long.

    So when Congressman Rahm Emanuel visited Kehoe’s firehouse, the overwhelmed father complained.

    “One of the first bills I introduced was to simplify the college aid form,” Emanuel says in a voice over.

    Then we see the happy ending: Erin Kehoe, now a history teacher, wearing a cap and gown. In fine mythological tradition, Emanuel is portrayed as a sort of god who intervenes in the lives of the protagonists, granting their wishes.

     “When you tell him what’s on your mind, he listens to ya,” Pat Kehoe says, “and he gets things done. He’s a doer.”

    For its cinematic and literary qualities, “Getting It Done” gets an A.

    Emanuel is running a Hollywood campaign: he’s communicating with the voters with expensive movies and ads (paid for with the proceeds of an L.A. fundraiser attended by Tom Hanks and David Geffen), but he’s blowing off candidate debates where he’ll have to answer questions in public. Next week, the other major candidates are attending community forums on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Emanuel won’t be there. (Emanuel has agreed to a Feb. 14 debate on WTTW.)

    “I don’t think he’ll do any of them,” Emanuel spokesman Ben Labolt told the Sun-Times. “He’s been speaking to voters directly where they live and work every day of the week.”

    He’s speaking to them on their televisions, on their radios, on the computers. Unlike his rivals, he can afford to be there. He doesn’t need to sit on a hard chair in a high school auditorium and listen to neighborhood soreheads yell about parking meters in order to be seen. It’s the same reason Jack Nicholson doesn’t do TV interviews: if you see the man in person, it dilutes the mystique of the man you’re seeing in the movies.