Take a look at Neil Steinberg's profile of Rahm Emanuel -- "the nation's reigning mayor" now that Bloomberg is gone -- in the latest Esquire if you want to read some familiar but still juicy descriptions of the much-discussed Emanuel-Lewis relationship (he admits to swearing at her but claims they hugged at the end of the meeting), some political analysis about his opponents' chances of unseating him (slim to none), and -- my favorite part -- a description of Rahm guest teaching a class (Greeley Elementary). Best sentence from the whole piece? "Many politicians clutch at the concept of “the children,” but Rahm grabs them like human shields." Other favorites from the story below the fold:
“We just finished economics,” D’Alessio, a fifteen-year veteran teacher, tells Rahm. “We did a lot of brainstorming on the budgets, and I’m sure that’s something you think about on a daily basis.”
“Let me walk you through a couple things on my budget,” he tells the children. “About a month ago, I introduced my third budget. Next week, pending any challenges or problems, the city council will vote on my budget. There are a couple things that I’ve done on that budget to deal with the financial condition of the City of Chicago. When I became mayor, we were supposed to run an $800 million deficit. Because of changes in my first budget [and] my second budget, and because of changes in the economy—we rely on sales-tax revenue, property taxes, property-tax transfer—what was supposed to be $800 million, or $790 million to be exact, three years ago was projected, this year came in at $369 million. And through a series of changes I made—some difficult, some less so—we are balancing our budget. . . .”
"Rahm speaks in spiraling jazz runs, riffing with statistics and self-congratulatory asides, and he is correct in asserting that he’s brought some order to the city’s finances. Trying to avoid a general tax increase, he’s been loading on millions of dollars in luxury taxes and fees." "Many politicians clutch at the concept of “the children,” but Rahm grabs them like human shields." "Asked if the pension is the biggest problem he is facing, he replies simply, “Yes.” Then he’s off, and he keeps slipping into the past tense—“The pension issue that I was facing this year . . .”—was, as if it’s all solved now. "No relationship was wrecked more than the one with his primary nemesis—the Immovable Object to his Irresistible Force—Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union and an improbable figure: a large, trash-talking African-American woman who went to Dartmouth, loves opera, speaks French, is Jewish too, and has no reluctance to snatch up her own sharp instrument and lunge at the mayor’s privates. Lewis says their first meeting was at Henri, an upscale Michigan Avenue restaurant, where Rahm turned on the charm.
“It worked,” she recalls. “I was charmed. Of course I was charmed. Why wouldn’t you be charmed?” She remembers thinking: Okay, this is a guy I could work with. We have a lot in common. While she was basking in that glow, Rahm got a state law passed requiring 75 percent of the teachers union to approve a strike before it can legally take place. “We had a meeting, and immediately he went to Springfield to start taking away every single right we had,” Lewis says. “He was doing everything legally he could to destroy me and destroy my membership.” Rahm had made a campaign issue out of lengthening both in Chicago, which then had the shortest school day in the nation. Teachers saw this as dumping more work on their shoulders while cutting their pay, and it led to a notorious confrontation between Lewis and the mayor, which Lewis lovingly described afterward for the press, explaining how the mayor “exploded” at her when she said the CTU teachers were not babysitters. “Fuck you, Lewis,” Rahm said. The mayor does not deny saying that, but points out that at the end of the meeting they hugged, which might be Rahm Emanuel in a nutshell: He tells you to fuck off, then you hug him. “It seems as if he has contempt for everyone else and thinks they’re all stupid,” says Lewis. “Everybody’s stupid. He thinks I’m stupid.”
“Here’s the measure I’m going to have for myself,” Rahm says. “William Bennett”—Reagan’s secretary of education— “came [in 1987] and said [Chicago’s] is the worst public-school system in the country. I’m going to prove him wrong. I’m going to show you it’s the best public-school system in any major city in America. That’s why I wanted to be mayor. This is going to be one of the great turnarounds of any public-school system.”