Tales from the Trail

Rahm’s White House going away present – dead fish wrapped in newspaper

October 1, 2010

What do you get a guy who’s leaving the White House to run for Mayor of Chicago?

White House colleagues presented Rahm Emanuel with a dead Asian carp wrapped in Chicago newspapers at the morning meeting on his last day. fish

It was a symbol of two of the many political battles fought by the man who became President Barack Obama’s chief of staff — he once sent a dead fish to a pollster as a message of displeasure, and the other was his fight against the Asian carp threatening to invade the Great Lakes.

Our White House correspondent Steve Holland tells us that Austan Goolsbee gave it to Rahm at a senior staff meeting, saying, “I talked to the policy team and we wanted to give you a going away present—something to show how we feel about you but also shows we understand your new possibilities.  I was the natural go between—I voted for you all three times you ran for Congress and even in that first primary.  So here is your present.”

Emanuel opened it and said, “this is a dead fish!” And Goolsbee said, “to most people, it looks like a dead fish.  But to a future mayor of Chicago, it looks like a dead Asian Carp.  And you’ll be happy to know that it wasn’t easy to find one of these.”

“ In Chicago, this is how friends say goodbye ,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Rahm told senior staff in the Roosevelt Room: “I know that I pushed you all very hard. But I did it in service to the president and I believe that our whole country is better off for it.”

In pursuit of his longtime dream though, Emanuel will have to fend off some opponents, and his election to the top Chicago political post is not a sure thing. The New York Times outlined five reasons why Rahm will win and five reasons why he will lose.

Our Chicago Correspondent Andrew Stern found that political analysts in Illinois said Emanuel will not waltz into City Hall to succeed the retiring Richard Daley.

“There’s no obvious favorite in the race,” said Michael Mezey, a political analyst at DePaul University in Chicago. “As in many races, money counts, and Emanuel will likely have the money. He certainly has the broadest name recognition in the city. On the negative side, there is a bit of a view of him as a carpet-bagger. He’s from here but he hasn’t been here for some period of time.”

“We have 50 years of tradition of ethnic voting here which has been suppressed because a Daley would always win,” said Andrew McFarland of the University of Illinois at Chicago.  “If the black community puts forth one major candidate, if anything, that person would be favored.”

One thing’s for sure, Rahm is likely to give his opponents a fight they won’t forget…

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Rahm Emanuel listening to Obama speak at White House March 18),  Photo of dead fish present provided by a source.

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