The Fall of Rahm Emanuel


Rahm Emanuel, a man of obvious talent, drive, and leadership capacity, should have been an ideal person to run a big city like Chicago. Unfortunately, because of his stubborn unwillingness to admit and compensate for his flaws, that was not to be.  After barely limping across the finish line in his re-election bid and tamping down the fallout from Moody’s downgrading the city’s debt to junk status, Emanuel has now been rocked by a truly huge scandal. The Chicago Police Department shot 17 year old Laquan McDonald 16 times, killing him, then did not release a video of it for over a year – including sitting on it during the entire election season. And that’s just the start of it.

My latest piece in City Journal, The Fall of Rahm Emanuel, looks at Rahm’s tragic trajectory:

Emanuel’s leadership style came with fatal flaws. A political streetfighter by inclination, he lacks an operational orientation. He didn’t appear to grasp the scope of the city’s financial problems until four years after he was first elected, when Chicago’s bond rating was cut to junk. His infrastructure trust fizzled. The schools went from bad to worse, with his first CPS leader forced out and his secondpleading guilty to corruption. He didn’t get it that Chicago’s police department hadn’t been fundamentally reformed the way New York’s and Los Angeles’s had been.

Emanuel’s governing style has been all tactics, no strategy. He’ll pick up the phone to twist the arm of a CEO or fight to win the day’s media cycle. But what’s his vision for the city? He has no idea how to make Chicago as a whole work over the long term. Nobody is great at everything, but Emanuel’s arrogance seemingly won’t allow him to address his own shortcomings. Famously vindictive, he alienated the local press and others, turning those who might have helped him into enemies. He also brought a Washington-style spin-control mindset to Chicago. In Washington, an army of apparatchiks and a compliant media lets politicians like Obama create a reality bubble. In national politics, perception is often is reality. But in local government, reality is reality. The West Side isn’t Benghazi. The people who live in Chicago can walk out their front doors and see for themselves what’s going on.

Click through to read the whole thing.

Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a Contributing Editor at City Journal. He writes at The Urbanophile, where this piece originally appeared.

Photo: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, left, greets U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta upon his arrival at a CEO roundtable in Chicago, May 20, 2012, courtesy of the Department of Defense.