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Perlstein writes: "My subjects - Romney, Rick Santorum, Rahm Emanuel, the NATO 3 and Cleveland 5 and Florida white supremecist Marcus Faella - where are they now?"

Rahm Emanuel speaks with Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy at a press conference in Chicago. (photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Rahm Emanuel speaks with Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy at a press conference in Chicago. (photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)



Rahm Emanuel Still Hates Democracy

By Rick Perlstein, Rolling Stone

19 June 12

 

his past April I published a piece here I wanted to call "Rahm Emanuel Hates Democracy." Cooler heads in the front office prevailed, and the piece ended up being called "Rahm Emanuel Has a Problem with Democracy." Here's the sequel: Every time I gave a radio interview in Chicago and mentioned my original title for the piece, some newsroom guy just about kissed me.

There have been innumerable articles about Mayor Rahm Emanuel in national publications. Mine, I learned, was the only one anyone could think of that had been critical. Fawning, should-know-better journalistic big shots praised Rahm, at Rahm's word, as a model of democratic openness. Which made the guys I was talking to - guys used to having mayoral flacks feed them questions for the mayor while they were live on the radio interviewing him - just about ready to spit.

Sequels: For today's installment, a few more. I've been writing a column in this space for over five months now. My subjects - Romney, Rick Santorum, Rahm Emanuel, the NATO 3 and Cleveland 5 and Florida white supremecist Marcus Faella - where are they now?

Let's start with Rick Santorum - remember him? I wrote in March that he had half a point when he claimed President Obama was a "snob" for wanting all Americans to go to college. I pointed out that broadly speaking, liberals do oversell college, in ways that empower crooked for-profit "education" schemes, shortchange those whose best option might not be college - and, most of all, weigh down a generation of graduates with more debt than their degrees might actually be worth. New reporting has since clarified that the problem is even worse than we thought.

CNN showed that student loans have tripled over the last decade, approaching a trillion dollars, and that this was "the only form of consumer debt to substantially increase" since 2002. The AP found that half of new college graduates are either unemployed or employed in jobs that don't require the degrees for which they went in hock. And finance blogger Yves Smith put two and two together: Considering that the average college debt is around $23,000 and the average graduate's income is about $27,000, the people pushing degrees have become more and more like snake-oil salesmen.

Rebuild the Dream - the organization started by Van Jones, whom I interviewed here in April - has been curating the wreckage. Like the grandmother who begged her grandson to go to college and co-signed his student loans, which eat up much of her Social Security check, who is now harassed daily by Sallie Mae, one of whose reps helpfully suggested she get her unemployed grandson to sell his plasma to pay off the loans. Another member of the Rebuild the Dream community was told by a Sallie Mae rep of their instructions to call debtors up to eight times a day - and if they couldn't reach them, to badger their parents, even if they weren't on the loan.

Worst of all - and what Rebuild is most focused on changing - this is often not even seen as a problem, just as the way things are, or even should be. Writes Smith, "One of the distressing things in [a recent New York Times student debt] article was elected officials and even students arguing it was completely reasonable to expect students to carry most of the freight of their education."

How our nation has changed.

California became the fourth biggest economy in the world in the 1960s in large part by building a free public education system. (Joke's on them, or more precisely, on the people of California: The more expensive tuition has become and the more the system's campuses become like private universities, the lower their rankings have become). A great way to bring America back would be to make college education free for all who want it now. Scholar and social critic Adolph Reed has long maintained that you could do it for about two percent of the federal budget, which wouldn't even require an income tax increase. He even started a web site, freehighered.org, to back the campaign - but don't click the link; it's dead. Apparently his campaign didn't go very far. Blaming the victim is more the fashionable thing now.

Now Mitt. He might soon be your president. Back in January I said that predictions that Evangelicals would balk at supporting an adherent of a faith many of them don't consider Christian would come a cropper. He's since glided to imminent nomination in a party all but run by the Christian right - so that much has been borne out. What about in November? Will the vaunted Republican "base" turn out? Most decidedly. I still maintain that whether Romney is a wingnut, or of what kind, remains of little interest to movement conservatives now that they have their horse to take down the Great Satan Barack Obama. "Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line," I always keep repeating.

This week CBS News disagreed, collecting a panoply of quotes from Christian right leaders at the annual Faith and Freedom Conference in D.C. to argue that this was still an "uneasy embrace." Here's Tony Perkins: "There's some question as to can we really trust him." And here's how CBS's Brian Montopoli adds it all up: "While the social conservatives gathering for the conference have largely made peace with Romney ... they're not exactly bursting at the seams with excitement about his coming coronation at the Republican National Convention."

It never ceases to astonish me how poorly top American political journalists understand the utterly predictable ways the American right actually works.

Perkins is playing the game. For over thirty years now, "grassroots" conservative leaders like Richard Viguerie regularly showed up in the Washington Post ritually repeating, "there's some question as to can we really trust him," about both Bushes, about Bob Dole, and, yes, even about Ronald Reagan, whom they only began worshipping as a hero after his two terms were up. Questioning politicians' conservative bona fides is a strategy to build power on the organized right. (It's never done on the organized left, because the press would never play along.) Leaders like Viguerie set themselves up as popes, masters of some supposed army of uncompromising grassroots right-wing warriors whose support they could tap or hold back at will - if the man in the White House would not compromise. It's a neat little double trick: it nicely intimidates the politicians and nicely aggrandizes the movement leaders' power. It's sad how little reporters learn from watching it go down again and again.

But you, dear reader, are now in the know. Watch more such popes come out of the woodwork this summer, and watch the top-drawer journos hang on their every hustling word.

But meanwhile, back to Rahm.

Hizzoner's mighty display of authoritarian muscle, the Chicago NATO summit, came and went to decent local reviews. No matter the nearly six dozen reports of police brutality, his cops still got to enjoy a free White Sox game, mingling with the players on the field as general manager Kenny Williams praised their "bang-up job" (unfortunate language!), "an exercise in patience and tolerance at every level." Chicagoans' patience, however, may be coming to an end.

There's been an astonishing, astronomical increase in murders in the city this year, for which the mayor scapegoats liquor and convenience stores while cutting $9 million from youth anti-violence programs. Cutting is Emanuel's bag - which may be why I saw, for the first time ever in front of my tranquil Chicago building five blocks from the Obama family's home, a schizophrenic ranting and shrieking up and down the street. Rahm has closed six of the city's twelve public mental-health clinics - and his cops have been arresting people protesting on the sidewalks in front of them without charges.

He says he's doing it all for the children. Like, for instance, when he says, "Without pension reform, we'll be forced to mortgage our children's future." Because, as you know, pensions don't help support any children. Last month he traveled to the state capitol in Springfield to bark that unless he was able to increase the retirement age for public employees by five years, suspend their cost of living increases, increase their pension contributions, and give them a "choice" between having defined-benefit pensions or those failing 401(k) plans beloved of Wall Street, he'd have to increase property taxes 150 percent. And, of course, he shut out the unions from these discussions of their members' fate. That's his bag, too.

But Rahm's management style is catching up with him, too. At the end of May his appointed second in command at the Board of Education resigned - the fourth high-ranking city education official to quit in about a month, even as the city rushes to implement over a half dozen major changes to the system. Changes like lengthening the school day, which you might remember he had hoped to do without paying teachers commensurately for the increased work. But teachers, united, will never be defeated. In the beginning of June an astonishing 89.73 percent of teachers - that's 89.73 percent of the entire membership, not just the ones who showed up - voted to give their leadership permission to call a strike this fall if their demands for fair compensation and a role in the process aren't met by the city.

Don Rahm, that vaunted tough guy, appears to be quivering. "Chicago teachers deserve a pay raise," he suddenly and uncharacteristically announced the day after 4,000 teachers union members rallied downtown, sounding for all the world like the very Teacher's Union president he had told "fuck you" during earlier discussions of the work-without-pay plan. It speaks to a point I addressed to Occupy activists back in March: If you're fighting for justice, a smart, explicit, well-timed demand can move mountains.

Emanuel boondoggles multiply apace. A plan to rent bikes on the streets was left to an Oregon company, Alta Bicycle Share from whom the Commissioner of Transportation pocketed a $10,000 consulting fee shortly before receiving his city appointment. The intern who wrote the request for proposal was a former Alta employee, and was subsequently hired back by the company - which didn't have a Chicago business license when the requests for proposals began, so - voila! - the CFP was then cancelled, conveniently giving them time to get one. Their bid costs the city $9,600 per bike - compared to the less than $6,000 proposed by the experienced local vendor who was shut out.

Small potatoes, though, compared to what City Hall announced as a $7 billion "infrastructure trust" plan the mayor claims will create 30,000 jobs, repair and replace and improve streets, schools, and parks, and beam all Chicagoans to work on a brand-new commuter unicorn system powered by rainbows and laser beams. Well, not really. In actual fact, no one knows what an "infrastructure trust" is, how much it will cost, how it will be accountable to taxpapers, and how it improves upon the ain't-broke-don't-fix-it system of floating bonds that has served cities perfectly well for centuries. The announcement alone, though, was enough to charm the panties off of the New York Times as well as the city's zombie-like aldermen, all but seven of whom voted to approve the "idea."

The bright side? It may well be that Chicagoans have had enough. In my "hates democracy" rant, I wrote about Rahm's speed cameras boondoggle, in which his administration put forward made-up numbers to argue that an automatic system that happens to be made by a company with ties to his number one political crony was not about raising revenue but merely "doing the right thing for the children." Turns out only 22 percent of Chicagoans believe him. 54 percent oppose the idea outright - though the Kremlin, I mean the City Council, passed the bill 33-14 anyway. 62 percent of citizens like the idea of extending the school day - but then, before Emanuel was inaugurated, 78 percent liked it. Meanwhile, the teachers are winning the battle for public opinion: 86 percent of citizens and 92 percent of Chicago Public School parents said that "if teachers are going ot teach longer hours, they should be paid more for it." 40 percent said they "side the most" with the teachers and just 17 percent with the mayor.

Overall, the approval rating of a man some say wants to be the first Jewish president is 52 percent after his first year in office. Mayor Daley, the man whom he replaced and who invented the sort of pinstripe patronage I gave Emanuel too much credit for pioneering - thanks to the excellent local blogger Whet Moser for correcting me - consistently enjoyed ratings above 60 percent.

Except for the schizophrenic dude, it turns out, my neighbors are pretty darned sane. Saner, I'm beginning to think, than the judges overseeing our corrupt regime of entrapment-based "anti-terrorism" efforts. Last sequel: bail notes.

Here in Chicago last Tuesday, the three NATO protesters being held on $1.5 million bond were indicted under the state terrorism statute. They came to court in irons, although even accused murders usually get to go to their hearings unshackled - though we don't know why the state considered them so dangerous, since, in a move that baffled the judge, their indictment is being kept secret.

In Cleveland, two weeks back, a federal judge delayed ruling on a bond request so he could review the 50 hours of conversations recorded by their friendly neighborhood infiltrator. The charges include "use of a weapon of mass destruction." Watch this space, dear reader, to see how and whether the government will be able to convict these boys whose lawyer says "couldn't blow their noses let alone blow up a bridge": Already, the judge told the prosecution to shut off the surveillance video taken before the men's arrest because the audio quality was so bad.

And in Florida, the white supremacist leader Marcus Faella, was arrested for organizing paramilitary training for "race war" while fashioning fake "Occupy" signs as weapons with which to beat up hippies; the guy who failed in his attempt to manufacture the poison ricin walks free on $50,000 bail. I'm sure I won't be writing a sequel any time soon about him, because if I do, I'm certain there will be dead bodies involved.

 

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+102 # futhark 2012-06-19 13:03
I was very disheartened when Barack Obama invited Rahm Emanuel to be his chief-of-staff, but it was just part of the pattern he showed in recruiting Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers into his administration. Loading down his staff with insider baggage like the aforementioned is exactly the way NOT to have a transformationa l presidency. Shenanigans of this kind turned me from a loyal 30+ years as a Democrat to a wanderer in the political wilderness. If Democrats want to make a real, positive difference in the way the United States is governed, they need a clear vision of their goals and to recruit politicians and administrators who will work toward their realization. The diversity of progressives, Wall Street insiders, and surveillance-st ate and military-indust rial proto-fascists only makes a muddle that serves the interests of ruling elites.
 
 
+25 # PaineRad 2012-06-19 16:33
But, of course, the Dems don't due that, in part also thanks to Rahm, instead looking only to win in the easiest, least involving manner possible.

Emanuel is credited by insiders with winning back Congress in 2006 when he headed up the DCCC. To the extent that his efforts did the trick, he did it by looking for candidates with the highest sympathy credentials instead of any political beliefs.

But did he really have much to do with it? More than anything the 2006 elections were a referendum on Bush's war in Iraq. A few of Rahm's cheap attempts at an easy win backfired due to the candidates' lack of political interest and skill. But for Rahm, the Dems may well have enjoyed a larger majority in the House after the 2006 election (consider the seat of retiring Henry Hyde who chose to retire because of the huge challenge from Christine Cegelis two years earlier who Rahm stiffed in 2006.)
 
 
+16 # SpyderJan 2012-06-20 06:16
futhark, I agree about the chief-of-staff appointment. It was practically the first thing that Obama did, and it disturbed me because I didn't like the way Rahm ran the DCCC. He passed over some truly worthwhile candidates who might have actually made a difference for the same faceless yes men whose names won't be remembered. In short, I don't like or trust Mr. Emanuel. I am pretty sure Chicagoans are feeling the same about now.
 
 
+12 # lark3650 2012-06-20 07:09
I agree. When I was a little kid, my father said: "Don't listen to what people say, watch what they do." "Actions speak louder than words." President Obama may have wanted "change" and may have chanted, "Yes, we can." but like my dad said....talk is cheap.
 
 
+38 # Bodiotoo 2012-06-19 15:18
He can hate Democracy but we don't have one. Never did, never will...the Constitution is in part designed to slow popular opinion within the guise of being democratic. It has always been a republic usually controlled by the elite.
We just have a new aristocracy now.
 
 
+25 # Vardoz 2012-06-19 15:28
Me too> Rahm has always been a pig.
 
 
+46 # bobby t. 2012-06-19 15:37
About a week after the president took office he held a meeting with the large drug firms. They offered 80 billion dollars to help the health bill he was working on. That is when I realized I had voted for a con artist. 80 billion is for ten years. eight billion per year. Their net profits per year? over 300 billion. quick math is ten percent of their profits is 30 billion. do the math. what the hell are we left with? a single payer system means the government, like Canada or Mexico, buys all the drugs themselves at deep discount prices. it was then that i realized that single payer or public option is not on the table. never was. money does talk and cow manure does walk.
 
 
+45 # PaineRad 2012-06-19 16:38
And health care deal from hell was not even the beginning. The stimulus was scaled down and then neutered further by the Blue Dogs while the Progressive Caucus was ignored.
 
 
+37 # L. Sabransky 2012-06-19 17:58
I live and Chicago and agree with you. I did not vote for Rahm - I voted for Del Valle, who has a track record of reform. But, Chicagoans wanted "Rahmbo," and that's what they got. I don't see that Rahm is doing much that is out of character. It's the voters, who once again, are idiots. I am also sickened by the alder-creatures (as Royko used to call them) becoming lap dog, rubber stampers for Rahm. I think Karen Lewis, the Teachers Union president - is going to be his downfall - she's going to win this fight!
 
 
+18 # tomtom 2012-06-19 18:12
The Billionaires are represented by their peers. If we could just get Our Hungry, sick, homeless children the same enthusiastic support.
 
 
+13 # Bigfella 2012-06-19 20:50
A good start would be to get them to vote!
 
 
+1 # JSRaleigh 2012-06-22 11:21
Quoting Bigfella:
A good start would be to get them to vote!


If they try, the insiders will purge them from the voter roles.
 
 
+17 # paulrevere 2012-06-19 19:29
Gee...I am bedazzled by the astute observations on RahmTheEvil. Good work folks!

I was involved with candidates for Congress in my state, two of whom had RahmTheEvil's cell number as he was coaching them and the staff directly...he steared both to the Blue Dog caucus without batting an eye, and they stumbled right on over there...without batting an eye.

That was when many insights into how incestuous and both overtly and subtley things are manipulated...e ven in demwhirled.
 
 
+9 # REESORT 2012-06-19 20:41
Sounds more like Rahmny.
 
 
+10 # cordleycoit 2012-06-19 22:42
Emanuel is a secretive fish, he was in his past life a spook I heard for the fun loving dopers at Mossad. He helped his boss (the man with no history) in the White House keep his third grade report card hidden, something the Shrub was proud of. "A Good Mayor steals only for his people." is as much a part of Chicago as the protester being attacked by steroid and sperm blinded cops. Emanuel's people are the very rich.
 
 
+9 # Activista 2012-06-20 10:47
Emanuel is a prototype of money politician.
Lies and tricks -
This is America today ... bankrupted by militarism and MONEY ... both morally and economically.
 

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