By Jessica Hopper
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the tough talking politician who has served two presidents and been a member of Congress, said that he has ruled out any plans for higher office.
In an interview with Rock Center’s Harry Smith, Emanuel said he has no plans to be America’s first Jewish president.
“Not interested. Not going to do it. No. I’ll do it in Hebrew, Lo,” Emanuel told Smith with his famously blunt tongue.
When reminded of other politicians who vowed to avoid a presidential run only to run years later, Emanuel said, “I don’t care.”
When pressed by Smith, Emanuel said, “What part of it is [it] that I’m not getting across? Here, give me a piece of paper, I’ll sign it,” he said.
Emanuel, 51, gave up his job as President Obama’s White House chief of staff to become mayor of his hometown, Chicago, Ill. He’s also been an aide to former President Bill Clinton and made a reputation in Washington, D.C., for his sharp elbows and famously foul mouth. Legend has it, he once sent a dead fish to a political opponent.
Now in his sixth month as mayor, some say a different, softer side of Emanuel is emerging and resonating with Chicagoans.
Emanuel might still be in the honeymoon phase of his term, but the challenges he faces as the leader of the nation’s third largest city are great. Among them are a $600 million budget deficit, high crime levels and a battle with the local teachers union.
Emanuel said all of those challenges are “manageable,” but one challenge in particular truly makes him pause.
“You go around sometimes, kids are growing up in an environment in parts of the city that you wouldn’t let your own kids grow up in. There’s no sense of life and there’s an emptiness in their eyes that you don’t know if you can change,” he said.
Emanuel, a father of three, has imposed an earlier curfew for kids 12 and under to help keep them out of trouble and has been negotiating with the local teachers union to make good on a campaign promise to lengthen the school year and school day.
“Reaching a child who has the flicker of life snuffed out? That’s daunting. These other things, we can handle,” he said. “That to me is what gives you pause…and I think I can say this since it’s not one of my strong suits, that’s what humbles you.”