Maintaining a hard-ball reputation

You hear certain political operatives make the claim that there was nothing agenda-related in this or that move they made or words they spoke, and you wonder why they even bother to invest time in those nonsense routines. Right on cue, the guys in Chicago who were hell-bent on trying to get Rahm Emanuel removed from the mayoral ballot by having the courts declare him ineligible on residency grounds, were making the obligatory comments about their action not being fueled by any political motivation.

It was all about making Emanuel abide by the same rules that cops, teachers and other city workers have to observe, they protested. Yeah, right! And no special significance should be attached either to the fact that they reached out to one of the lawyers who fought on George W. Bush’s behalf in the infamous Florida ballot count debacle back in 2000.

Who knows what else may have been at play (beyond what’s stated in the justices’ written opinion) in the Illinois Appellate Court’s conclusion that Emanuel did not qualify? Political affiliation or orientation finds its way regularly into court decisions, as we’re all too aware, the very 5-4 high court ruling handing the presidency to Bush being one of the more egregious examples of this in recent memory. To its credit, the Illinois Supreme Court would have none of the tomfoolery engaged in by the lower court, and even dragged its Appellate brethren across the carpet a bit in its ultimate ruling that Emanuel should not be hindered in his bid to become Chicago’s mayor…at least not on account of this residency charade.

Even before the Illinois Supreme Court made reference to it in its unanimous opinion, an astute observer of these goings-on might have mused upon some of the niggling complications that could ensue from allowing the anti-Emanuel challengers to prevail. Emanuel being a former Congressman, the “residency” status of members of Congress, which the Supreme Court justices specifically mentioned, should have immediately come to mind. If “residency” is to be construed only as being physically situated, uninterrupted, within the designated space for X amount of time, does this mean members of Congress who “live” in Washington for spells of perhaps days or weeks are in effect representing districts (or states, for senators) in which they don’t technically reside?

Emanuel was no carpetbagger, running into Chicago because of some perceived opportunity to make political hay there. The guy was immersed in Chicago Democratic politics big time and represented the 5th District in the House, resigning in January 2009 just before beginning a fourth term, to assume duties as the president’s chief of staff. His continuing to own a home in Chicago and paying taxes there, as was offered by way of legal argument, should have counted for something, one would think. Which, evidently, it did.

As with most of these go-for-the-jugular maneuvers, the move to run Emanuel off the ballot was blatant and couldn’t possibly have been devised with the intention of deluding anyone that anything but hard-ball politics had prompted this action. Polls were constantly indicating that Emanuel seemed to be running away with the thing, and some wiseacre tactician lined up in opposition thought the residency gimmick looked to be the best shot for a trip-up. But, as often happens, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if those desperate machinations to get a guy out of the way wound up giving him, instead, even more of an advantage than he’d enjoyed heretofore.

What’s more than a little curious is that the main combatants here are all Democrats. When the dust settles Election Day, Feb. 22, either it will be all over, with one candidate having gotten more than 50 percent of the vote, or the top two heading to a runoff in April. But the players are destined to be all in the Democratic family. You would think some of these heavy-duty artillery options could be held in reserve, ready for when there are the likes of Tea Party irritants to deal with.

One of the candidates supposedly in the second bunch behind Emanuel is Carol Moseley Braun. We have wondered for a while why someone doesn’t do Ms. Moseley Braun a huge favor and offer her some kind of gig appropriate to her skills, that would get her off this track of thinking herself a viable candidate for elective office of some significance. The last time she was heard from before this mayoral bid, in the same “going nowhere” type of candidacy, was when she threw herself into the pack contending for the Democratic presidential nomination in ’08. The strategy behind that move was highly befuddling to many, she having failed to hold onto her Illinois senate seat after a single term, losing to pretty undistinguished GOP opposition. If she is again unsuccessful, this time around the track, hopefully good sense will prevail.

One thing this mayoral race is giving us, as far as continuity, is how much the Chicago political scene is a model probably without peer. The city of fabled Mayor Daley (father of the retiring incumbent) in the state that gave us the unfathomable antics in office of ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich, has once more come through on the campaign drama front. If he wins, which seems quite likely, Rahm Emanuel’s reputation as a hard-charging, pull-no-punches sort should be invaluable for the role.

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