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A Look At How Rauner, Emanuel Are Handling Trump

Within President Donald Trump’s first two weeks in the White House, a women’s march took over downtown Chicago, he tweeted he would “send in the Feds” to deal with the city’s gun violence, and protesters demonstrated at O’Hare International Airport after Trump banned refugees and others from seven predominantly Muslim countries. 

Trump’s policies have created both opportunities and hazards for Illinois’ political leaders, particularly Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner. WBEZ’s political reporters Lauren Chooljian and Tony Arnold sat down and talked about how the two high-profile politicians are handling the new president.

Here are some highlights. 

Rauner: One eye on Trump, another on 2018 election

Tony Arnold: Rauner has worked to balance his approach to Donald Trump’s presidency, being a Republican governor in a state that went heavily for Hillary Clinton. 

For example, on the executive order regarding the travel ban, a Rauner spokeswoman said in a statement that the governor opposes a ban that targets a religion and thinks the courts should determine the legality of Trump’s executive order. But Rauner has supported limiting the number of Syrian refugees coming to Illinois. 

In that statement, Rauner is speaking to the unpopularity of it and the controversy of it without fully condemning it. 

I’ve also been told over and over this week that Rauner won Illinois in 2014 by doing well in Chicago suburbs, which is where Trump did poorly. So Rauner’s trying to draw a distinction between himself and the new president.

Emanuel: Keeping a level head and steady hand on the photo-op camera

Lauren Chooljian: Chicago Sun-Times columnist and ABC 7 analyst Laura Washington says while the mayor is no delicate flower, he’s been using a delicate touch in the way he responds to Trump, and she thinks it’s working for him. 

“Rahm Emanuel has tried to keep his cool, and successfully kept his cool, and said, ‘Well, you know, show me your cards, show me what you got,’” Washington says. “I think that’s an effective strategy -- as effective strategy as you can have in this environment when you’re dealing with the president of the United States who has a lot of power.”

However, Washington also says Emanuel is also a photo-op guy. Take the dinner the mayor held at his home this week for students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, or DACA, program. Reporters weren’t allowed inside, but the mayor’s office sent around photos of the mayor, his wife and two daughters sitting in the Emanuel family living room with these students.

Washington says the mayor does believe in protecting immigrants, and this was also a great way to soften his image in a very public way. Meanwhile, some of the mayor’s critics say Emanuel should be taking action instead of hosting dinners. 

Click the ‘play’ button above to listen to the entire interview. 

Lauren Chooljian and Tony Arnold cover politics for WBEZ. Follow them at @laurenchooljian and @tonyjarnold.

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