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A not-so-real interview with Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel
I’ve covered six Chicago Mayors since 1976 including Mayors Richard J. Daley, Michael A. Bilandic, Jane M. Byrne, Harold Washington, Eugene Sawyer and Richard M. Daley. But I have yet to get Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to allow me to interview him, despite numerous requests. What’s the excuse Mayor? Are you a coward? Afraid? Don’t want to answer questions you think might make you look bad? All your predecessors criticized me harshly, but sat down with me to answer questions openly and honestly. They had nothing to hide. What’s your excuse?
By Ray Hanania
I covered and interviewed every Chicago Mayor since Richard J. Daley, winning a dozen journalism awards including four Lisagors. With the exception of Richard J. Daley, they all start out combative, but that’s just politics.
Jane Byrne was the toughest. She disliked me claiming Richard M. Daley was my “friend.” Richie wasn’t my friend. He used me the way he uses everyone, like when he said he was going to run for County Clerk and announced for state’s attorney. A least he began his press conference calling me “the best and most honest reporter he knows.”
Byrne took criticism. She didn’t like it, but she did many interviews with me. Turns out Byrne wasn’t so bad and came up with many good programs and policies.
Harold Washington started out tough, too. Despite tensions caused by race and rival Ed Vrdolyak — who also liked me, hated me, liked me and hated me – Washington sat with me often for frank, no-holds-barred interviews.
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Washington was good because he wanted questions that were tough, critical and even uncomfortable.
Every Mayor sat down with me, except one, Rahm Emanuel. I’ve asked to interview Mayor Emanuel several times, one time face-to-face. He refused. That’s ironic because Emanuel acts like the “tough guy” using the (expletive deleted) word a lot.
I’m a loud-mouthed Arab American angry Arabs are excluded from politics because of the conflict between Jews and Arabs over Palestine and Israel. (It doesn’t matter that my wife and son are Jewish. I’m Arab and that’s all Emanuel cares about.) His father was a member of the Irgun, the Jewish terrorist organization in Palestine, where my dad and mom both lost all their lands.
But ever since he was elected Mayor, Rahm Emanuel has avoided contacts with the Arab American community. He’s been close to Muslims, but almost exclusively non-Arab Muslims. Emanuel isn’t a bad mayor, he just won’t speak to the needs of Arab Americans, and I have to ask why?
Since his election, he has refused my requests to do an interview. Here’s my view on Emanuel, who I have endorsed for mayor several times, although reluctantly.
So, to relieve the mayor’s concerns, here’s the interview I would do if he wasn’t afraid:
Q: When you were elected in 2011, the first thing you did was cancel the Arabesque Festival. Why?
A: Leaders of the Jewish community complained about it.
Q: And you closed down the Advisory Commission on Arab Affairs.
A: They complained about that, too.
Q: But you claim your administration is proud of diversity.
A: Yes, diversity to a degree.
Q: What do you mean?
A: Well, I work with Muslims.
Q: Muslims are not Arabs.
A: I know that. You know that. But Americans don’t know that.
Q: True. I’m Christian.
A: I know 78 percent of Muslims are non-Arab, so I work closely with that group. I just don’t work with the other 22 percent.
Q: Is that diversity?
A: Diversity enough.
Q: Are you mad at them because they criticize your dad who was a member of the Irgun?
A: I don’t think we should drag family into this.
Q: That’s fair. Do you think Arabs dislike you?
A: It doesn’t matter.
A: Because most Arabs don’t vote. If they don’t care, why should I?
Q: A lot of them vote.
A: Yes, but they’re divided and fight among themselves, more than other ethnic groups. What’s the point?
Q: Is that the only reason?
A: No. Most live in the suburbs, like you, so why should I care?
Q: You take our suburban tax dollars to shore up Chicago’s problems.
A: Sure. Why not. I use my pals in Cook County to do that. Suburban voters are divided, disorganized. Like Arabs.
Q: Don’t most work in Chicago?
A: Some of my biggest donors are suburbanites. I take care of them.
Q: You said you want to create jobs, but that hasn’t happened.
A: That question upsets me.
Q: You vowed to improve education. That hasn’t happened.
A: Another question I don’t like.
Q: You vowed to stop gang violence, but all you are doing is offering empty words. Young people are dying. The former police chief Garry McCarthy says it’s your fault by meddling in police affairs.
A: This interview is over.
Q: I figured that’s the real reason you won’t sit down with me, Mayor.
A: You’re not as stupid as I thought.
Q: Thanks for pretending to be the mayor.
A: Thanks for pretending to do an interview. It wasn’t so bad!
(Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and opinion columnist. Reach him at personal website is www.Hanania.com or by email at email@example.com. Or, call him mayor. You have his cell number!)
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