Is Mayor Rahm Emanuel the most effective chief executive in America?
After just one month in office, it’s clear that he’s not just running the city of Chicago. He’s running the entire state of Illinois.
When Gov. Pat Quinn signed the school reform bill that will enable Emanuel to lengthen school days and restrict teacher’s right to strike, Emanuel was sitting right next to him. Emanuel successfully lobbied the legislature to pass a bill allowing a casino in Illinois -- even though Quinn complained that it would turn the state into “the Las Vegas of the Midwest.” Emanuel also won passage of the Illinois DREAM Act, which would provide college scholarships for children of undocumented immigrants.
It’s nonsense to think that Emanuel would run for governor in 2014, as a stepping-stone to the White House. As the mayor made clear in a GQ interview, moving to Springfield would be a step down from mayor of Chicago -- less power, less coverage from big-city media, less access to wealthy donors. Right now, Emanuel is the most powerful Democrat in a Democratically-controlled state. That’s one reason he’s enjoyed more legislative success than Obama, who had to compromise with conservatives even when the Democrats controlled Congress.
The other reason is that Obama and Emanuel are two different types of politicians. Obama wants to do something -- expanding access to health care is the motivating cause of his career. Emanuel just wants to be something. Although Obama essentially appointed Emanuel mayor of Chicago, Nadig Newspapers columnist Russ Stewart points out that Emanuel has much more in common with another Democratic president, Bill Clinton:
Emanuel, like his mentor, Bill Clinton, does not view issues or problems in the context of right or wrong, liberal or conservative. His goal is not to please his political base. Rather, every crisis or controversy is an opportunity and is viewed in the context of being beneficial or detrimental to Emanuel’s career advancement. It’s all about positioning to avoid aligning with political extremes on issues and embracing a “third way” -- thereby minimizing political damage.
Stewart goes on to say that Emanuel will use Pat Quinn -- a true liberal believer -- as the “obnoxious adversary” in his triangulation game: “Emanuel’s Newt Gingrich will be Pat Quinn.” The two are already in disagreement about the casino bill.
That’s another reason Emanuel doesn’t want to be governor. He needs an enemy in that office.