The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Counting on Obama to Resolve the Chicago Teachers’ Strike?


The Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt features discussion of today’s 9/11 Anniversary, a note of caution about polling at this point, and then….

The Great Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012

One way or another, the nation will generate issues for the presidential candidates to talk about. Who had “a teacher’s strike in Chicago” as one of the big issues in early September?

I heard from one regular who thought this whole dispute in Chicago is being organized so that the Munificent Sun-King can fly in from Washington and calm the waters and bring everyone together in agreement “for the children.” Rush was theorizing along the same lines:

RUSH:  Last week I asked a stupid question, and it took me a couple of hours on Friday to figure it out.  I’ve been hoping I wouldn’t forget it all weekend.  And here we are, and I remember what it was.  The stupid question I asked was: “Why are the teachers in Chicago going on strike?”  The answer is very simple:  So Obama can solve it as a campaign issue.  That’s why they’re on strike.  It won’t be long before we hear Moochelle say that he’s up late at night on the campaign trail practically crying, reading letters from students in Chicago upset they can’t go to school.

The schools are open in Chicago for lunch and breakfast.  Teachers aren’t there.  Rahm Emanuel’s kids are at their $25,000-a-year private school.  The Chicago teachers have been offered a 16% raise.  How’s that compared to your raise at your job?  And they turned it down over some pension stuff.  You watch. Rahm Emanuel himself is the guy who said, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”  We know that the unions, Obama and Rahm Emanuel, the Democrats, are in bed with each other.  So this, to me, I think it’s a perfect setup.

RUSH: This school teacher strike in Chicago? Let’s just see how long this thing goes on, and let’s see how it gets solved. Anybody want to bet against me that Obama’s the one that gets credit for this, in a few short days? Anybody want to bet that there might be a little bit of violence and finally Obama will have to move in and do something? He and Rahm will figure this out so they get credit for solving it. Because, I tell you: There is no union that is gonna go on strike right now for the express purpose of harming Barack Obama.

True enough, but I’ll cite Robert Heinlein on this: “You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity.” We know from Wisconsin that unions are capable of taking enormously unpopular, short-sighted, self-destructive actions that disregard the advice of their allies. Some leader within the Chicago unions probably calculated that Rahm Emanuel and every other Democrat in public life would never defy the will of a major union two months before a presidential election. Ordinarily, they would be right.

Here’s the problem with the “Obama swoops in to save the day” theory: Everyone involved already has egg on their faces, mostly on the metaphorical visages of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the teachers’ unions. Under the conspiracy theory, all of these groups would have to be willing to take a tough PR hit from a multi-day strike. A bit of a hurdle, but possible.

But when you see stories like this one…

Parents didn’t know what to expect when they dropped off their children Monday at one of the city’s 144 schools that remained open as part of the district’s strike contingency plan. Some had to cross raucous picket lines where teachers were chanting about a fair contracts or banging drums and tambourines.

You start to wonder if some of the teachers are burying themselves in the part. This is going to stir up a lot of bad blood between parents and teachers, and that seems like a high long-term cost for the Chicago parties to play in order to help Obama play hero.

Finally, if Obama’s going to swoop in and play the hero… he can’t delay too long. At least for now, Obama is punting on this one, or at least he’s having Jay Carney do so on his behalf.

Q Thanks, Jay. A couple of topics, please. I’m wondering what the President’s reaction is to the teacher strike in Chicago, assuming he’s had a chance to follow that story, and whether he has any reaction to both the strike and how his former Chief of Staff is handling it.

MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m sure he’s aware of it — I know he’s aware of it, but I haven’t spoken with him about it, so I can’t speak for his reaction. I can tell you that as a — more broadly, that our principal concern is for the students, and his principal concern is for the students and families who are affected by the situation. And we hope that both sides are able to come together to settle this quickly and in the best interest of Chicago’s students. But beyond that, I haven’t got a specific reaction from the President.

Q Is it fair to characterize the White House as sort of neutral in this dispute?

MR. CARNEY: Well, we certainly haven’t expressed an opinion on how it should be resolved. We’re urging the sides to resolve it.

Q This has been — there are some reports that there were some Chicagoans that have brought this to the President’s attention, this coming showdown before. Can you talk –

MR. CARNEY: Not that I’m aware of. I mean, I’m not with him every moment of the day, but I — not in my presence, but I don’t know.

Tags: Barack Obama , Chicago , Jay Carney


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