Every day, in every way, it becomes ever clearer that Rahm Emanuel’s campaign for mayor of Chicago and mine have striking similarities. Rahm went off to Washington two years ago to pursue politics on the national stage. I left Chicago about 40 years ago to pursue politicians on the national stage, particularly huckster politicians. Two of my targets were Rahm’s old boss Bill Clinton and his boss, Hillary.
This fall we returned rather recklessly, both to run for mayor. I immediately had major newspapers supporting me and at least one national figure, Sean Hannity, on his estimable TV show. Rahm flummoxed around in the city. His ill-considered campaign was attacked as that of a “carpetbagger” after it became clear that he had not lived in his home for the past two years. His house was in possession of one Rob Halpin, who refused to leave. It was the gesture of a patriot. Critics have hardly questioned my Chicago residency. Rahm’s friendship with the disgraced former governor, Rod Blagojevich, has been raised. Anyone who has looked into the matter knows I am clean as a hound’s tooth. Yet Rahm and I do have the nagging question of our residency. Two judicial panels have taken it up, and this week, the second, an appeals court, rejected him. Now his fate is with the Illinois Supreme Court. The courts have not dealt with me yet.
About the time the New York Sun endorsed me - my candidacy will “be the freshest breeze out of the Windy City since Lincoln. … Tyrrell is right in the Chicago tradition. … Tyrrell is of a more literary turn, but he can talk with the windiest of the Chicago wise men … he was born in Chicago of a family with deep roots in the best tradition of Illinois politics” - I offered to enter into a joint legal action with Rahm, challenging the one-year residency requirement for running for mayor. But I have heard nothing from his crack legal team. Shortly thereafter, The Washington Times added, “Tyrrell vows to pursue policies informed by the most energetic minds of the modern age, such as former American Spectator contributors Milton Friedman and Edward C. Banfield. …” I was willing even then to pool my resources with Rahm and see if we could not get this irksome residency requirement waived, but to no avail.
Last week, Rahm raised more than $10 million for his campaign. Now he may have to return it, for it is apparent that he is in the same mess as I am. I have suffered no such embarrassment.
As the Illinois Appellate Court ruled Monday, “A candidate … must have actually resided within the municipality for one year prior to the election, a qualification that the candidate unquestionably does not satisfy …” We could have challenged this officious law together in a show of bipartisan comity, but Rahm apparently was too proud. Now he will just have to go it alone. Harsh winter has set in, and I am unlikely to go back to Chicago until spring.
As I wrote in an earlier column, Rahm had given little thought to running for mayor this time around until Sept. 7, when Mayor Richard M. Daley abruptly announced his retirement. Then Rahm kissed his wife goodbye and headed for Chicago, that little residence requirement be damned. Well, in Chicago, no one is above the law, or at least only a few thousand are above the law, and Rahm apparently is not one of them. Indigenous Chicago fixers are out to sidetrack his candidacy. He has taken his shabby case to the Supreme Court of Illinois. Whatever is decided, Chicago is now a laughingstock. Had he agreed to allow me to join his side of the case, it would have been done at least with dignity and possibly a better outcome.
Not only is he subject to derision, but it appears that if he does not actually win the right to run for mayor, the mayor’s office will be inhabited by Carol Moseley Braun, who is runner-up in the polls. She is an amusing creature who has not filed income tax returns for two years. Moreover, she has $2 million in mortgages on her home and God knows how many other skeletons in the closet. Frankly, she is running because she needs a job. Surely there were better-qualified candidates for the position, and one would have stepped forward had not this insufferable yuppie, Rahm, hogged the show.
But like the Tammany pol George Washington Plunkitt, Rahm “seen his opportunities and he took ‘em.” The problem is that Chicago is going to have to pay for his recklessness. I love the city of my birth and wish it a better fate.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His new book is “After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery” (Thomas Nelson, 2010).
Editor’s note: This column was filed before the the Thursday Illinois Supreme Court ruling that allows Rahm Emanuel to run for mayor of Chicago.