Graves Registry: Rahm on the rocks


After the euphoria in 2008 had subsided, there were three things that seemed to portend trouble ahead for Barack Obama. The most obvious was Mr. Obama's almost childlike belief that the Republican Party, following the massive domestic and foreign failures of the Bush II administration, would make a sincere effort to put partisan allegiances aside while the country attempted a recovery. Looking back, it now seems as pointless as asking a shark to subsist on seaweed while the fish population regenerated.

The second was Mr. Obama's appointment of Tim Geithner as treasury secretary. It seemed an odd thing to do when Mr. Geithner was the head of the New York Fed during the period when the unbridled, unregulated greed of Wall Street and the big banks decimated the lives of millions of people and nearly succeeded in destroying the country's economy.

The third bad omen was Rahm Emanuel, who followed Mr. Obama from Chicago to assume the post of White House chief of staff.

A reporter once asked an acquaintance of Ted Cruz why people took such an instantaneous dislike to the Texas senator. "It just saves time," was his answer.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if that cogent assessment also fits Mr. Emanuel. In his self-appointed role as an Obama hit man, he was so combative he aggressively confronted a dissenting Democratic member of the House in the shower room of the Congressional gym. Emanuel resigned as chief of staff in 2010 to run for mayor of Chicago, a post he is now clinging to the way a shipwrecked sailor hangs on to a bit of wreckage. But, anyone who thinks that he has any plans to go down with the ship he has commanded for the last five years doesn't know the man very well.

It was just a few days ago that the mayor of America's third largest city was hoping that Chicago had reached a plateau that signaled a new era of racial tolerance. He was also expressing his complete confidence in Superintendant of Police Gerry McCarthy. If I may be allowed another nautical metaphor, Mr. McCarthy has since been summarily deep sixed in the hope that the justifiable public rage over the brutal killing of a black Chicago teenager by a white police officer will be satiated by the sacrificial offering of the superintendent's head.

Mayor Emanuel's platitudes about closing the racial divide in one of the most violence-plagued cities in America were offered in response to the furor instigated by a police dashcam video that his administration has fought to keep from being released to the public for over a year, claiming that it would hinder an ongoing investigation. (Of the 28,567 complaints filed against the CPD between March of 2011 and September of 2015, less than 2 percent resulted in any actual disciplinary action and that usually amounted to a week's suspension).

Public outrage over the video, not quite incidentally, might also have tipped the scales against Mr. Emanuel in his tight race for a second term as mayor. Small wonder that city officials paid the family of the victim $5 million after Emanuel was safely installed back in the mayor's office and kept the "ongoing investigation" dodge going in the hope that the killing would soon be submerged completely by more recent horror stories.

There have been many more incidents since the one on the night of Oct. 20, 2014, but there could hardly be a more horrifying one. The video completely refutes the CPD's initial story corroborating Officer Jason Van Dyke's claim that he feared for his life after 17-year-old Laquan McDonald threatened him with a knife. It clearly shows McDonald acting erratically, but posing no threat to any of the nine armed police officers at the scene.

As the boy wanders away from the camera, he is shot 16 times by Officer Van Dyke, who was charged with first-degree murder after the video was made public. Cook County's suddenly shocked chief prosecutor, Anita Alvarez, timed the indictment to coincide with the release of damning evidence that she had likely seen a year ago. It seems as if the prospect of public payback over what reeks of a self-serving high-level cover up -- not the brutal gunning down of a young black man on a Chicago street -- provided the impetus for the prosecutor to do her job.

Mr. Emanuel's subsequent denial of being aware of the video until very recently was immediately accepted by the same people who believed Chris Christie didn't know nothin' about the bridge. You have to wonder if residents of the Windy City sometimes wish for a return to those blissful bygone years when all they had to worry about was the Capone mob.

— Alden Graves is a regular Banner columnist


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