Opening the 57th branch library of his tenure last week, Mayor Richard M. Daley turned to me and, like a 68-year-old kid at Baskin-Robbins, exclaimed, “Isn’t this great?”
“Look at this! Look at all the light,” he said, admiring the building in the Far Northwest Side’s Dunning neighborhood. “That’s the one thing we never had growing up. All this light.”
Will Rahm Emanuel exhibit such delight over something so small yet so lasting? And, if not, should we care?
On the eve of Mr. Emanuel’s inaugural, it is folly to predict his fate. That’s especially so given a national economy that a big-city mayor is impotent to fix and, just as relevant, given how environments shape personalities and personalities shape environments.
He has been high profile as a solid North Side congressman, a cannily pragmatic head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a hyperkinetic White House chief of staff. But Mr. Emanuel’s image is largely that of a spectral presence — somebody off in the closed room, in the back, who shaped events for others.
Mere mention of his name could alter the dynamic of a situation. People dealing with him get anxious without knowing what he’s really up to. He’s not a poet, philosopher or rabbi. He’s an astute student of government and a practitioner of power.
Mr. Daley entered the job in 1989 trying to remake a myth, namely that of his iron-fisted father, an American icon who erected a concrete-and-steel metropolis and resisted a changing world. Mr. Emanuel arrives as a myth, the oft-caricatured “Rahmbo,” the apparatchik with a razor-sharp intellect, cosmopolitan air and Somali warlord’s heart.
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