The Chicago elections commissioners ruled, in my opinion, the rational way, when
they declared Rahm Emanuel a resident of Chicago and thus good to go on the ballot
for the Feb. 22 nonpartisan primary for mayor.
The next day, Friday, both Chicago papers offered not only reporting but also editorials praising the decision. “Rahm wins Round 1” declared the Tribune. “Election board gets it right on Emanuel,” declared the Sun-Times.
But it was The New York Times national edition that gave Rahm the most lavish coverage that day — and the Times is likely in the Chicago homes of many of Emanuel’s upscale supporters and financial backers. On the front page, just below the fold, ran a three-column-wide photo of a hatless, smiling Rahm shaking hands with a pretty commuter, her blond hair visible under her pink hat. “Cleared for Takeoff in Chicago,” read the caption headline.
The Rahm reporting, depicting him as full of energy and resolve, appears on A-13, in the national news section. It is detailed enough to be jumped to A-15. The reader learns that Rahm received word of the hearing officer’s recommendation in his favor just before 2 a.m., and that by 2:24 he had “issued a statement praising the recommendation, and by 8 a.m. … was standing on an ‘L’ stop … greeting commuters. … Then it was on to a visit with firefighters, followed by handshakes at the Berghoff, a famed Loop restaurant.”
Also on A-15 ran another Rahm story, this one running across six columns at the top of the page — giving Rahm almost the entire page — an analysis from the Times’s “Political Times” columnist Matt Bai.
“… it’s indisputable,” Bai writes, “that [Emanuel] has spent most of his adult life doing the people’s work” (true, although Bai did not mention that Rahm spent two and a half years after leaving the Clinton administration doing his own work, earning $18 million using his Clinton contacts to make deals for a connected investment bank).
For those who might have been weary of reading about Rahm, the Bai Times column carried a five-column photo — Rahm with young people drinking beer out of Berghoff glasses, Rahm looking handsome and well-pressed and fresh-faced despite his now-much-more-salt-than-pepper hair.
If Rahm’s opponents thought they were harming him by challenging his residency, they goofed. Rahm’s conduct at the 12-hour hearing the week before was exemplary, even verging, occasionally, on humble. And when Rahm placed the photograph of his family on the table in front of him, and sat still and courteous while enduring endless wacky, insulting questions, he likely won the hearts and votes of people not previously in his corner.