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Rahm Emanuel Rolling Stone Profile: Chicago Mayor Blasted As Having 'A Problem With Democracy'

Posted: 04/ 4/2012 10:10 am Updated: 04/ 5/2012 8:38 am

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was the subject Tuesday of a scathing profile published on Rolling Stone's website -- a rare piece of national criticism of the former White House Chief of Staff's performance.

The piece, written by historian and journalist Rick Perlstein, argued that -- in the midst of debates over how the city will handle protesters during the upcoming NATO summit and on as debates with labor unions, library supporters, mental health advocates and other Chicago-based critics continue -- the mayor "is no friend of democracy."

Perlstein described the city's loss of the G8 summit -- a decision handed to the mayor from President Obama with just one hour's notice -- as humbling, in addition to turning a brighter spotlight on policy decisions that Perlstein argues are indicative of "the new machine:"

[C]uts to schools, libraries, and mental health; cash to corporations. And should you have the insolence to protest it -- well, you'd better be able to afford a damned good lawyer.

Perlstein further calls out journalist Jonathan Alter for writing a lengthy profile of the Chicago mayor that was "fawning" and "pass[ed] along Rahmpraganda with a kind of goofy glee."

In that profile, published last month in The Atlantic, Alter glowingly referred to Emanuel as "bent on wholesale reform of 'the Chicago Way,'" "relentless" and "a risky purchase, but Chicagoans are lining up to buy him."

Alter's sunny profile of the mayor is far from the first piece written by a national, out-of-town journalist that has enthusiastically endorsed Emanuel's performance as Chicago mayor. As the Chicago Tribune's John Kass wrote last October, "The national media and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel definitely have a thing going on. It's a Rahmance."

Kass's column was written after Thomas Friedman's "A Progressive in the Age of Austerity" op-ed, published in the New York Times on October 15.

Friedman argued that the mayor was successfully dealing with "a microcosm of what the whole country will have to do for the next decade: find smart ways to invest in education and infrastructure to generate growth while cutting overall spending to balance the budget -- all at the same time and with limited new taxes."

A week later, The Economist published a piece called the mayor's proposals "politically bold" and meeting budgetary needs that "could not be plainer."

The New York Times piece was published three days after the mayor introduced his first budget proposal, which closed or consolidated half of the city's mental health clinics, slashed public library hours, closed police stations and introduced a slew of new fines and fees that angered many Chicago residents. The mayor's budget, after it underwent minor alterations, was approved unanimously by the City Council.

Meanwhile, the city has rejected NATO protesters' permit application -- an application identical to one previously approved before the G8 summit's exit to the secluded Camp David. With the G8 out of town, activists had hoped to tweak their plans to coincide with the start of the NATO summit, now the only show in town. Emanuel has argued in response that the city is not prepared to handle the security demands and logistical concerns of a May 20 protest.

"If you wanna stay with the original application? No problem," the mayor told CBS Chicago. "Change the date? The destination doesn't change, the route does to accommodate, given the fact that you have about 150 dignitaries that you have to move."

The matter may land in court as protesters have said they will agree to an alternate route proposed by the city so long as they put it in writing, NBC Chicago reports. Protest organizer Andy Thayer discussed the ongoing negotiations with WTTW's Chicago Tonight Monday.

The Chicago Reader has consistently been the most vocally critical of Emanuel since he was inaugurated as mayor last May. On how the mayor has prepared for what was then the concurrent NATO/G8 summits in Chicago next month, Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke wrote that the mayor "worked diligently to spin the press." The way he has approached the event coming to town, Joravsky and Dumke argued, "says a lot about how he runs this town."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story indicated that writer Rick Perlstein was not based in Chicago. In fact, he lives in Chicago. We apologize for the error.
WATCH Thayer discuss the upcoming NATO protests in Chicago:
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Filed by Joseph Erbentraut  |