Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

How Emanuel Intimidated a Radio Host

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The mayor-elect uses legendary debate tactics during a radio interview.

Most campaign offices have a calendar marked “Days to Victory.” Rahm Emanuel’s had one marked “Days Until I Can Stop Suffering These [Bleeping] Fools Gladly.”

That day arrived on Wednesday. In one of Emanuel's first post-election interviews, Rahmbo called in to the Super Celebrity Hotline on WLS’ Roe and Roeper. Chicago finally got to meet the D.C. legend famous for trying to intimidate everyone from his dry cleaner to the British Prime Minister.

Emanuel displayed some patience at the beginning of the interview. He answered a question about whether he’d called Ald. Edward Burke by not mentioning Ed Burke’s name.

“I want to reach out to all members of the City Council,” Emanuel said. “I’m looking forward to partners in reform.”

The Chicago Manual of Style prohibits using “Ed Burke” and “reform” in the same sentence, so that was OK. But then Conn tried to get Emanuel to talk about the differences between himself and Mayor Daley.

“As well-run as this city’s been for the last 21 years, there’s still the need for reform,” Conn said. “Where do you see that breaking between what work Mayor Daley’s done and what needs to be reformed?”

“I’m gonna build on the progress he made,” Emanuel said. “It’s not either/or, and I appreciate the fact, I think you’re not trying to play a game here, but there are things I’m gonna do different.”

“It’s not really a game I’m playing,” Conn defended himself. “That is a question that everybody has.”

“I didn’t say you were playing a game, OK? Hey, let me tell you, if I were to accuse you of playing a game, you wouldn’t have to ask ambiguously, ‘Are you saying that?’ You would know.”

The tactic seemed to work. Conn and Roeper were tentative for the rest of the 10-minute interview. Emanuel has been tortured by Tim Russert on Meet The Press. He’s not going to be pinned down by a pair of local drive-time infotainers. He then vowed not to reduce police and fire pensions or raise property taxes, but the hosts didn’t ask how he could achieve both those goals.

“Rahm, what about Meigs Field,” Roeper asked. “Is there any consideration to reopening--”

Emanuel cut him off.

“No. No. We’re not opening Meigs Field.”

“Are you gonna do something with that land?” Conn asked.

“I saw the plan, I thought the nature park was inspiring,” Emanuel said. “I said this at my press conference, and I want to repeat it. There’s only one mayor at a time, and Mayor Daley is that mayor. If there are plans to develop Meigs that he sees right for the city’s future, he’s the mayor between now and then. OK?”

That was it for Meigs Field. If @MayorEmanuel ever reveals himself, Emanuel promised to meet him on the show “dressed up in a mayor outfit.”

Afterwards, Conn declared himself “the first journalist in Chicago to have been threatened” by Emanuel.
  
“I think you heard the Washington experience in terms of his deep distrust of the press,” Roeper said. “I can see some pretty contentious press conferences. You’ll get ‘no’ from Rahm. Meigs Field? ‘No.’ Rahm’s at the jewelry store now. ‘I’d like to return this charm bracelet.’ We’ve seen the end of Bruce Banner and the Hulk is with us now.”

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