Illinois politico Rahm Emanuel’s reputation precedes him, and that’s a problem.
Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wanted to keep the top job in his city, but his unpopularity with Chicagoans made it impossible. He wanted to be U.S. Secretary of Transportation in the Biden administration, but his unpopularity with the super-progressives in the Democratic Party made it impossible.
As a consolation prize, Biden has nominated Emanuel to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Japan, and he should win confirmation. But it’s not a sure thing, because the Democrats who didn’t like him before still don’t like him.
Speaking for the hard-core left, party leader U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called Emanuel’s nomination “deeply shameful.”
It’s not easy to agree with Ocasio-Cortez on the issues, but she has a solid point here. It’s one that Democratic U.S. Sens. Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both prominent Emanuel supporters, will have to ignore when and if they eventually cast their expected “yes” votes for Emanuel.
Ocasio-Cortez objects to Emanuel’s nomination, as do many others, because of the leading role he played in the attempted cover-up of the 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer.
The mayor tried to push an out-of-court settlement with McDonald’s family quietly through the Chicago City Council. But he was found out.
He resisted release of the shooting video until he was elected to his second term. Despite Emanuel’s best efforts, a judge ordered the video’s release, dooming his plans for a third term as mayor.
For those who do not recall, the video revealed a horrific display of unjustifiable use of deadly force. McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke.
It was not until after the video’s release that Van Dyke was charged in the case. Convicted of second-degree murder, he was sentenced to 81 months in prison.
In a recent story about the controversial nomination, The Washington Post wrote charitably that Emanuel was criticized “over his handling of the deadly shooting.”
Actually, he was criticized for trying to cover up what occurred to enhance his electoral prospects in the 2015 mayor race.
While despicable, it was not surprising. Emanuel is a master politician to whom the ends justify the means.
That will help him because he’s plugged in to congressional Democrats as a consequence of having served both in the U.S. House of Representatives and as White House chief of staff under President Obama.
He won plaudits for his House role because, as chairman of the House Democratic Congressional Committee, he led his party to the 2006 takeover of the House.
But he’s radioactive enough that many Senate Democrats refuse to speak publicly about their position on Emanuel’s nomination. The Washington Post said it contacted all 100 members of the Senate but that “most did not respond or declined to take a position.”
Cats have apparently captured the tongue of Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Equally silent are the two Black Senate Democrats — Cory Booker of New Jersey and Raphael Warnock of Georgia — who are normally outspoken.
It’s ironic that Emanuel has enough Republican support to win even if some Democrats, trying to appease their party’s left, vote no. Among the GOP senators supporting Emanuel are Linsdey Graham, Roy Blunt and Susan Collins.
There is little question about Emanuel’s competence. He’s a master of the black art of politics. But there is a substantial question about his vindictive character and belligerent personality.
Those are odd qualities for an ambassador. But it’s probably politically safer for President Biden to have him in the Far East than closer to home.