After months of being the whipping boy, Mayor Daley gives Mayor Emanuel the finger | Bleader

After months of being the whipping boy, Mayor Daley gives Mayor Emanuel the finger


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Since taking office in May, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has done an impressive job of letting the city know that he inherited a mess.

It's a smart, battle-tested move. Shrewd politicians always spend their first months, and sometimes years, emphasizing how badly their predecessors did things. It's a way of lowering expectations and buying time.

And since time is something Rahm Emanuel doesn't waste, it's no surprise that he's issued almost-daily reminders that we've got big problems.

Not enough cops on the street, lax oversight of the tax increment financing program, gift-giving by lobbyists, a far-too-short school day, a budget deficit approaching $700 million—there are almost too many issues to grasp, but Emanuel wants everyone to know that he's at least doing something about them.

"Upon taking office we learned that lax credit card and reimbursement policies with little to no accountability allowed some city employees to treat a city credit card as their personal expense accounts,” Emanuel said in a typical announcement last week. “Our residents work hard every day, and we work for them. Abuse or misuse of taxpayer dollars absolutely will not be tolerated." Therefore, he said, the city would get rid of 492 of its 500 credit cards.

He did not say how much money this would save—just as he didn't say how many new cops, if any, are actually on the street, how often he talks with his own campaign contributors, or what the longer school day might look like.

The point is clear: Emanuel is trying to get us out of the holes left for us by former Mayor Richard M. Daley. Of course, he only refers to Daley as "my predecessor." As my colleague Ben Joravsky put it recently: it's "as if the word 'Daley' shouldn't be mentioned in good company and what happened over the last 22 years was too traumatic to talk about."

Until this week, the former mayor hasn't responded publicly.

During a TV interview on Wednesday morning, however, Daley calmly smacked new Mayor Whoever-the-F***-He-Thinks-He-Is right back. And he didn't mention him by name.

When Fox 32's morning hosts asked Daley how he thought Emanuel was doing so far, Daley said, "He’s doing a good job," and then quickly shifted the subject to the future of cities around the world.

And when he was asked if he was stung by Emanuel's not-so-subtle criticisms, Daley merely said, "No, not at all. Everybody has different styles."

But Daley had quite a few more thoughts to share when the subject turned to the White House and its handling of the economy.

"They had two years of difficult times and they put all their wherewithal in the health care bill, and jobs are always the key," Daley said.

He was referring to the depths of the recession in 2009 and 2010, when Emanuel was the White House chief of staff.

But in case it wasn't clear, Daley continued: "Health care is a major issue. But for two years they spent all their time and effort on health care. Was it right? Health care is right, but there’s more to America than one issue. It is basically jobs in the future. President Obama is talking about that. He’s finally realizing that it’s all about jobs."

Finally—as in, now that Emanuel is out of the way and Daley's brother Bill has taken his place.

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