The Change-Up

In the spirit of The Change-Up, the new identity switching movie starring Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds, Ward Room speculates on what would happen if Pat Quinn and Rahm Emanuel switched bodies.

It was 5 a.m. in the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield, and the state trooper on duty was startled to see his shambolic boss in the kitchen, breaking a raw egg into a glass of orange juice.

“Governor!” he cried. “It’s five in the morning. I’ve never seen you up before nine-thirty.”

“I want you to start the car and drive me over to the Y,” the governor snapped. “If the Y’s not open this early, tell them to get open. The governor wants to swim.”

The trooper was even more perplexed.

 “You’re going to be exercising, governor?”

“Did I ask you to ask me a question?” the governor snarled.

“Yes, sir.”

It was Thursday, August 11, 2011, and Rahm Emanuel had just woken up in Pat  Quinn’s body. For the first time in his petite life, he had a gut. It could be worse, Rahm thought. Kirk Dillard could be governor. Then he thought, I’ll work this off with my mile-long swims. But when Rahm got to the Y, he could only complete two laps before the state trooper hauled him out of the pool, gasping.

“You OK, governor?” the trooper said. “Don’t overdo it on the first day.”

“It’s OK,” the governor said. “You can’t undo a lifetime of eating at Dairy Queen in one morning.”

Quickly, Rahm realized there were advantages to being governor. It was one step closer to the presidency than mayor. He’d been planning to knock off Pat Quinn in 2014, and now he didn’t have to bother with that campaign, because he was already in the governor’s mansion. And if he made it to the White House, he wouldn’t get there as the first Jewish president. He’d be the first Catholic president. On the other hand, there were disadvantages to being Pat Quinn. You could always work off those onion rings and frozen custards, but how could you undo a lifetime of crusading for good government and campaign finance reform? He’d have to hold a press conference.

That afternoon, the bald, burly governor addressed a shocked Springfield press corps in the Capitol rotunda.
“For my entire career,” he said, “I’ve fought against political insiders, I’ve fought against the influence of money in politics, I’ve fought against laws that would benefit corporations at the expense of the little guy. But starting today, that’s all going to change. This administration is going to be all about fundraising, union busting and insider deals. And I’m going to prove it by signing the gambling bill, which will benefit racetrack owners, Las Vegas casino owners and politically-connected Mobsters. Somebody hand me a -- who forget to bring a f---ing pen?”

The editorial pages were scathing. The Sun-Times wrote that “there must be a demon that possesses all Illinois governors, because Pat Quinn has suddenly turned into a combination of George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich.” However, he did receive an admiring phone call from Ald. Edward Burke, who said, “You’re starting to sound like a governor I can do business with.”

If he only knew, Rahm chuckled, hanging up the phone.

Meanwhile, on a quiet street in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago, Pat Quinn awoke to something he hadn’t experienced in 23 years: there was a woman in his bed…

Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!

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