City of the low shoulders: Rahm Emanuel doesn't measure up to Bill de Blasio

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Mayor Emanuel shakes hands with one of the high school basketball players honored at a City Council meeting last April.
  • Brian Jackson/Sun-Times
  • Mayor Emanuel shakes hands with one of the high school basketball players honored at a City Council meeting last April.
Bill de Blasio, the new mayor of New York, has been telling tall stories about his height, the New York Times revealed yesterday. He's been misrepresenting his stature in a surprising direction: he has claimed to be six-foot-five, but is actually taller.

Doubts about de Blasio's height "have lingered among skeptical tall people who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him and wondered if the mayor understates his height," the NYT said in its good-natured story.

Because of those doubts, the mayor's office last week commissioned a "study," which consisted of his wife, Chirlane McCray, wielding a household tape measure. The result? "The man I’ve known for 22 years is not what he appears to be," McCray reported. The mayor, she said, is actually six-foot-five and seven-eighths.

The NYT said that although de Blasio is proud of his stature, he's also "keenly aware of its impact" and "often takes great pains to avoid appearing abnormally large." At briefings, he "adopts a studied hunch, to reduce the distance between his chin and the top of a commissioner’s head."

The story, which ran on the Times's front page, was headlined, "A Mayor Most Everybody Looks Up To, Even When He Slouches".

This made me think of our own mayor. Hardly anyone looks up to Rahm Emanuel, even when he's on his tiptoes. They don't look up to him literally, that is: Emanuel is five-foot-seven.

Figuratively is another matter. Many people admire Chicago's mayor—or, at least, tremble from above him.

Emanuel is famously confident of his abilities, and clearly no shrinking violet. In 2009, when he was President Obama's chief of staff, a Times story observed that he was "clearly more chief than staff." The story noted that while some previous chiefs of staff "husbanded their authority, lest it be diluted," friends said Emanuel believed "the more someone used power, the more power that person had."

The 2009 story listed several of the "testosterone-driven aphorisms" Emanuel was partial to, one of which was: "A man never stands as tall as when he's on all fours kissing somebody's ass." (The NYT substituted "rear ends" at the hind end of the quote.)

Emanuel apparently meant that groveling in politics is sometimes admirable. As mayor, he clearly has appreciated aldermen who stand tall around him.

Emanuel was elected three years ago. If de Blasio wants advice from a mayor with experience, I'm sure Emanuel would look the New York rookie straight in the navel and give it to him.

One commenter on yesterday's NYT story wondered if de Blasio was "trying to compensate for his height with all his attention on the poor and the little people?"

With Emanuel, that's never been a worry.

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