As soon as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel came out of the hotel elevator in Philadelphia Thursday morning, television cameras were all over him.
They followed him into the breakfast buffet line.
They watched him scoop honeydew melon and strawberries onto his plate.
They filmed him eating at a table of Illinois delegates.
Chicago reporters have been anxiously waiting for Emanuel to arrive at the Democratic National Convention. The mayor skipped the first two days of the convention, causing some reporters to question his status on the national political scene.
Emanuel spoke on the national convention floor in 2008 and 2012. But this year, he just gave a short speech to the Illinois delegation after breakfast, calling on fellow Democrats to get out and share what they’ve heard at the convention so far, in hopes of bringing in more votes for the entire Democratic ticket.
“We gotta carry the torch forward all the way through to November. The choices could not be clearer, folks,” Emanuel said.
Emanuel is a national political figure, thanks to his long Washington D.C. resume, but over the last year, most national stories about him haven’t been positive.
Many criticized his handling of the release of the Laquan McDonald video. GQ named him one of the worst people of 2015. And it’s all lead to both national and local media asking if Emanuel’s still the same political rock star he once was.
Last night, in a video introducing President Barack Obama, Emanuel seemed to be cast as someone who put politics ahead of policy during the healthcare debate.
“Rahm Emanuel came to him and said you’re gonna have to pull the bill. Because if you push this legislation, you will lose in 2012,” a narrator said of Obama.
National political reporters and pundits immediately took to Twitter: Chris Hayes of MSNBC tweeted “Rahm portrayed as the cowardly calculating hack in this video.” The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza put Emanuel’s name on his list of losers at the DNC Wednesday night.
But this morning, the mayor defended his position, telling reporters that one of the things he loved about working in the Obama White House was that the president wanted his opinion, and trusted Emanuel to lead staff no matter which path Obama ended up choosing.
“He asked for my advice and as chief of staff, you have to give your advice and when he made his decision, you all were there, you followed it, I executed to give him the votes to get him to pass national healthcare,” Emanuel said to reporters.
As for the bad press that followed the video, Emanuel shrugged it all off. He said he doesn’t feel disrespected or thrown under the bus.
“Oh no, not at all. Look, you guys, it’s been in books!” Emanuel said. “It’s been in history and I’ve been honest about it because when the Supreme Court made a ruling, I said then, thank God he didn’t listen to my advice!”
As for questions about his political powers on the national scene, Emanuel told reporters once he left the Illinois delegation breakfast, he was off to meet with President Bill Clinton.
And when asked about his lack of a speaking role on the National Convention floor, Emanuel said “There’s a lot of people who don’t have a speaking role, don’t worry about it.”
Lauren Chooljian covers city politics. Follow her @laurenchooljian.