Is Chicago involved in an abusive relationship with Mayor Rahm Emanuel?
You know the pattern. The abuser loses his temper and lashes out with his tongue. His victim takes the abuse, then rationalizes the behavior with the phrase that’s been used to excuse jerkiness ever since Zeus began striking mortals with a thunderbolt: “Oh, it’s just his way.”
Over the weekend, the Chicago Tribune reported yet another incident in which the mayor verbally abused a political underling. This time, his invective was more figurative than the usual “f--- you”:
While lobbying this spring for lawmakers to support a change in pensions for city workers, Emanuel called Democratic state Rep. Greg Harris, a longtime acquaintance who represents Emanuel’s North Side neighborhood. Harris opposed the legislation, which never got traction in Springfield.
Emanuel pressed Harris to change his mind, and, according to several lawmakers who heard the story, began swearing at him and threatening to burn down his house if he didn’t.
Harris didn’t dispute the story but declined to provide details of the conversation.
“It was a really heated exchange, but that’s fine, that's politics,” Harris said. “People are passionate about their positions, and sometimes things get intense. … I also have a temper, and I know bad words too.”
According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, Rep. Harris doesn’t live in a house. He lives in an Uptown condominium. So innocent neighbors who may have suffered horrible deaths from smoke inhalation had the mayor carried out his proposed arson attack.
While courting the voters, Emanuel held his temper in check. But since his swearing in, he’s sworn out everyone with earshot. Here are some other anecdotes for the author of Rahm’s next profile in Vanity Fair or Fortune:
- Shoved a finger in NBC Chicago reporter Mary Ann Ahern’s face and called her a “bully” after she asked where he would be sending his children to school.
- During a negotiation over longer schools, shouted “F--- you, Lewis” at Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis.
During the campaign, Ward Room suggested that if Emanuel put a swear jar on his desk and dropped in a dollar every time he dropped an f-bomb, he could balance the city’s budget.
When contemplating the mayor’s character, I’m reminded of what a bartender once said of Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis: “Al’s a nice guy -- for Al.”
OK, so Rahm’s a nice guy -- for Rahm. It’s just his way.