by Janet Crain
Ever since I read the description by Congressman Dent of Barack Obama cynically feeding the Republican Reps and their families warm oatmeal cookies as he sought to woo their votes on the Stimulus Bill, I have understood his seething anger a few days later when no one fell for it. He hides this side of himself well. You have to look for his petty resentments. But not so his other self Rahm Emanuel. Rahm can do anything and be forgiven, cheered, even admired. BO must envy Rahm at times. His twists arms Chicago style. He can even be nice to old white people he despises.
An admirer writes:
It was sort of funny to watch Emanuel in that first campaign. He was on his very best behavior. No brashness, arrogance, tempestuousness, or impatience -- he was actually charming, almost nice. You'd see him hanging out under the el stops in the morning, politely shaking the hands of commuters rushing to catch the train for work. I once watched him make the rounds of a senior citizens' center in a white ethnic neighborhood on the city's far northwest side. He feigned interest in their bingo games and laughed at their jokes. He only looked at his watch once or twice before bolting for his next stop.
Frankly, I don't know why he even bothered to be so sweet. With Daley's backing, Attila the Hun could have won that election. The mayor brought out the pay rollers to make sure that Emanuel steamrolled his opposition. I happen to live in the district and I remember the fellows on the sidewalks outside the polling places on Election Day. Beefy boys with thick necks and fat bellies, they passed out palm cards that pretty much said, "Vote for Emanuel -- or else!"
So thanks to Mayor Daley, Emanuel got to go to Congress, where he railed against Republican corruption and scandals, conveniently overlooking all the corruption and scandal in his hometown.
So why is Obama hiring Emanuel as chief of staff? Probably for the same reason Daley hired him way back in 1989. He's ruthless, cunning, and absolutely unafraid to be a jerk. In fact, I think Emanuel enjoys being a jerk. Moreover, by being a jerk, I predict Emanuel will do a great service for Obama. By the time Emanuel is finished irritating, humiliating, and infuriating folks in Washington, Obama will look like an angel. People will probably like him even more just because he's not Emanuel.
In the last few days, Emanuel's been telling friends in Chicago that he had to think long and hard over leaving Congress. But I doubt it was that tough of a decision.
It couldn't have been easy for Emanuel to be a congressman, particularly at election time when he had to be nice to everyone like those old folks in the bingo parlor.
Now he gets to go back to being nasty. I suspect it will be like a dream come true.
© Janet Crain
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