White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who earlier this month expressed interest in being mayor of Chicago, told his hometown media to calm down on the notion that he will run for that office in the near future.
“I think you guys are way too excited,” he said as he left a speaking appearance today at the annual Richard J. Daley Global Cities Forum at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “You guys have got to start drinking decaf.”
Emanuel said it was “great to be back to Chicago,” adding that his mayoral ambitions are for sometime in the future.
“As you know, we have our home here and can’t wait at some point in the future -- don’t over-interpret anything, don’t everybody get excited -- at some point when we come back, which is always our goal,” he said.
Emanuel, 50, made his remarks after joining a panel discussion at an urban issues event hosted by the city’s current mayor, Richard M. Daley. Emanuel generated political buzz in Chicago and Washington when he said on April 19 that he was interested in becoming mayor.
“I hope Mayor Daley seeks re-election. I’ll work and support him if he seeks re-election. But if Mayor Daley doesn’t, one day I would like to run for mayor,” Emanuel said in an interview on PBS television’s “Charlie Rose Show.”
“That’s always been an aspiration of mine, even when I was in the House of Representatives,” he said in the clearest indication of his future plans.
Daley, 67, was first elected mayor in 1989. Chicago’s next mayoral election is in 2011.
The mayor responded to Emanuel’s statement by saying he sees nothing wrong with people expressing interest in his job.
“No, he’s not stepping on my toes,” Daley said on April 23. “There’s nothing wrong with people having a commitment to public service.”
Emanuel, who served three terms in the U.S. House representing part of Chicago’s North Side before being picked by President Barack Obama for his White House job, was teased today by the panel’s moderator about his mayoral ambitions.
“The consensus is that before that happens, he’s going to have to get some real experience,” said Judy Woodruff, a broadcast journalist and Bloomberg News contributor.
“I’m smiling,” Emanuel responded.
Asked about the level of anger among some Americans, Emanuel acknowledged there is a sour mood among much of the populace.
“There’s a reason people are angry, after seeing median household income decline over the last 10 years, and a system in which the leadership across both private and public sector, from Wall Street to Washington, failed them,” he said. “There’s a justification to that anger.”
Emanuel said the political partisanship seen in Washington is not reflected throughout the nation.
“The division is not as bad in America as it is in Washington,” he said. “We’re going through a big period of transition. And you have to accept that, understand it and then try to channel it to a more positive place.”
Joining Emanuel on the panel was Greg Brown, co-chief executive officer of Schaumburg, Illinois-based Motorola Inc., the largest U.S. mobile-phone maker.
‘In a Crisis’
“We’re definitely in a crisis,” Brown said. “For the first time, our kids, it’s likely, that their standard of living will be less than ours. There’s a massive skills and retraining issue. As in the case of America, we’ve moved from a manufacturing centric, to services and technology centric.”
Brown said he also sees ire among many Americans.
“There needs to be a full appreciation of the anger of the American people,” he said. “They’re upset. They’ve lost trust. It’s not a very popular time to be a CEO, either.”
Emanuel spoke as his older brother, Ezekiel Emanuel, a White House health-care adviser, appeared three miles away at a Bloomberg conference on health care.
To contact the reporter on this story: John McCormick in Chicago at firstname.lastname@example.org