"The Rahmfather" - NBC Chicago
Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

"The Rahmfather"



    The Rahmfather sat in the garden behind his house in Wilmette, waiting for his favorite son.

    Ari and Zeke were both fine boys, but Ari had fallen in with that Hollywood crowd, and Zeke's career as a doctor had made him the contemplative type. The middle son, Rahm, he was Benjamin Emanuel's true heir: tough, smart, ruthless.

    But even though he’d been to Congress and worked in the White House, Rahm still had a few things to learn about clout. They say politics in Chicago ain’t beanbag, but politics in Palestine? That was hand grenades.

    The Rahmfather had gotten his education in power as a member of the Irgun, a gang of freedom fighters. They hadn’t driven out the British by holding a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser and running a negative ad about the Mandate. They’d blown up the King David Hotel.

    When Rahm arrived, the Rahmfather sat him down.

    "So," he said. "Chico will move against you first. He’ll ask you to agree to a community forum at a place that looks safe, like the Broadway Armory, and then he’ll accuse you of trying to raise taxes."

    The Rahmfather lifted his wine glass and sipped.

    "I like to drink this sweet wine more than I used to," he said.  "Anyway, I’m drinking more."

    "It’s good for you, Pop."

    "I don’t know -- your wife and children -- are you happy with them?"

    "I don’t get to see them much now that I’m campaign. They’re in D.C. I’m here. We met in Thailand."

    "That’s good," the Rahmfather said.  "You provide good things for your family. When I was growing up in Jerusalem, we’d never heard of Thailand. I think they called it Siam then."

    The Rahmfather paused.

    "I hope you don’t mind the way I’m going over this Chico business," he said. "I spent my life trying not to be careless. Women and children can be careless, but not men like us. The British hanged four of our guys. I don’t like to talk about this outside the family."

    "Dad, it was a long time ago, in a different country."

    "I know. I came to America so you and your brothers wouldn’t have to go through any of that. I work my whole life, I don’t apologize, to take care of my family. And I refused to be a fool dancing on the string, held by all those big shots. I don’t apologize -- that’s my life, and I did it so that when it was your time, you would be the one to hold the strings. Speaker of the House Emanuel. Senator Emanuel. President Emanuel!"

    "Another macher. I’m getting there, Pop. I’m getting there."

    The Rahmfather stood up.

    "You’re getting there?" he exploded. "You’re running for mayor of Chicago! I didn’t put my life on the line and work and save to send you to New Trier so you could grow up to hold a nothing job like that. Six months ago, you were working in the White House, and now you’re slinking back home with your tail between your legs so you can be in charge of handing out sign permits and liquor licenses!"

    "Pop, it’s just the first step. All that other stuff is next. Even you had to start out in Chicago before we moved to Wilmette."

    The Rahmfather sat down again, and kissed his son on the cheek.

    "I’m sorry. I brought you here to warn you, not give you a lecture. Now, listen, if anyone in your campaign tells you to meet Chico at a community forum, he’s the traitor. Don’t forget that."

    "I won’t, Pop. I won't."