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[John Kass] Oh, c’mon, c’mon, Emanuel a victim?

Rahm Emanuel as a poor innocent victim of ruthless insider Chicago politics?

It seems to be the approved narrative. Especially now that he’s been knocked off the mayoral ballot in Monday’s ruling by the Illinois Appellate Court because he didn’t meet the state’s residency requirements.

Now Rahm will have to troll for sympathy, and demand that the rights of the people be respected. You know, the regular folks. Guys like the Daley boys, and big donors from New York and Hollywood.

It’ll be a hard sell, Rahm as the victim, but he’ll have to try. Victim status is critical to applying pressure and getting back on the ballot.

Even as the official storyline unfolded Monday, I couldn’t stop picturing Rahm in a different setting.

He’s wandering a corridor, anguished and alone. He smacks himself on the forehead, repeating the same line.

“Why the heck did I ever rent out the house? Why the heck did I ever rent out the house? Why the heck ...”

The rent for his house was a little less than $5,000 a month, mere chump change for a guy of Rahm’s means. He made $16 million as an investment banker soon after leaving the Clinton White House.

But rent it he did, when Rahm went to Washington to serve as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff. And by renting it, he made it easier to argue that he wasn’t a Chicago resident.

Why the heck did you rent out your house, Rahm?

As I’ve said for months now, whether we like it or not, the state law is clear: A candidate for mayor of Chicago must “reside in” the city for a year prior to an election.

Rahm and his lawyers argued with passion that he intended to keep his residence in Chicago. But election lawyer Burt Odelson argued the law. And the judges agreed with Odelson.

The news excited the other major candidates.

“There is no way I would second-guess the court of appeals of this state,” Carol Moseley Braun said at a news conference. “The law is the law is the law.”

And what will the Illinois Supreme Court do about it? There are four Democrats and three Republicans on the court. You’ve got to wonder how the Democratic justices can touch this case without completely burning their impartial fingertips.

The politics are obvious. Rahm is no friend of organized labor. And despite his friendship with Obama and Bill Clinton, he’s clearly not the “consensus candidate” of African-Americans. Braun claims that title.

So how do the Democrats on the state Supreme Court reverse Monday’s appellate ruling and put Rahm back on the ballot to satisfy the Daleys without angering the main constituencies of the Democratic Party, namely labor and black voters?

I don’t know. But since we’re talking about Chicago politics and the next boss of the city, surely the justices will decide the case strictly on the merits. Right?

Another major candidate, City Clerk Miguel del Valle, told me that Monday’s Appellate Court ruling sends a message long overdue.

“It sends a message to the neighborhoods of the city that Hollywood and Wall Street big shots, and the millionaires of Chicago, won’t decide this mayoral election. Instead, the people of the neighborhoods will decide it,” del Valle said.

The candidate who might benefit most is Gery Chico. If Rahm is kept off the ballot, Chico will likely become the establishment choice. The Daley boys will send somebody over to bring a coffeecake and make nice. And Chico will get his fundraising calls returned promptly.

“Our campaign was strong already,” Chico told me. “And we’re going to remain on the same plan that we were on yesterday, and it doesn’t matter whether Rahm is on the ballot or not. Nobody in this race is more qualified than me to run the third-largest city in the country.”

Rahm won’t give up easily. He wants to be mayor. And he can’t run for president someday without winning this election first. So he’ll have to cast himself as a casualty of the Chicago Way.

This new Sympathetic Rahm might make some of us forget about the old Ruthless Rahm, the same guy who ran for Congress with help from an army of knuckle draggers sent from Mayor Richard Daley’s City Hall.

Karma. It’s a stitch.

Then there’s that famous steakhouse story. Years ago, Rahm’s boss Clinton had just won the White House and Rahm was a meat eater, steak knife in hand, reciting the names of a number of politicians whom Rahm considered disloyal.

“Dead! Dead! Dead!” shouted Rahm, chanting the litany of enemies, punctuating each name with a stab at the table. That pitted tabletop was testament to something Rahm and all politicians understand.

Payback is a truth of politics, elemental perhaps, but there’s something primeval and honest about Rahm expressing revenge in the steakhouse. It’s something I’ve come to admire in the Rahmfather.

So I can’t see him as victim. But I can see him wandering the corridors of his campaign offices, alone, muttering:

“Why the heck did I ever rent out the house? Why the heck did I ever rent out the house? Why the heck ...”

By John Kass

John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may send him e-mail at jskass@tribune.com ― Ed.

(Chicago Tribune)

(McClatchy-Tribune Information Services)
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